In Elizabethtown, Kentucky, a dozen activists gathered under gray skies last Monday afternoon in front of the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church’s small sanctuary. “Smile and say ‘fairness,’ ” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, taking a group photo of the activists, clad in blue tee shirts proclaiming “Another Kentuckian for Fairness.” From there, the group traveled to Elizabethtown’s City Hall, where they presented the City Council with a proposal for an ordinance banning discrimination in housing, accommodations and employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “We’re not asking for anything more than ... the right to be who we are and to live our lives peacefully without having any fear of discrimination,” said Rose Marie Rocha of the nearby Hardin County community of Cecilia. It is a scene that has been playing out in small cities throughout Kentucky in recent weeks as local citizens work with the statewide Fairness Coalition — which includes groups such as the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky — to seek local anti-bias protections for gay and transgender people. Only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have such ordinances right now, but ordinances have also been proposed in Shelbyville, Bowling Green, Richmond and Berea. And Hartman said efforts may be launched in more towns early next year. So far, small county seats and other conservative heartland communities in Kentucky have resisted such measures. A Henderson ordinance was repealed in 2001 less than two years after its passage, and a proposal for one fell short in Berea last year. But gay rights advocates are taking heart from the national elections in November — even though Kentucky voters overwhelmingly voted for candidates running on conservative platforms — to make their push. Until November, even blue states had never backed same-sex marriage by popular referendum, as Maine, Maryland and Washington did in this year’s elections. In addition, President Barack Obama endorsed same sex marriage, and polls show younger voters to be increasingly affirming of gays and lesbians. “I think the nation’s reached a tipping point,” said Hartman, who also is calling on the General Assembly to pass statewide laws that would eliminate the need for a city-by-city campaign. But Hartman and other advocates are quick to add that the current proposals in small cities do not address same sex marriage, which Kentucky voters banned in a 2004 constitutional amendment. Instead, they generally would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations. “You need to bring people along, make sure people know exactly what the ordinance is,” said Jane Thomas, a Shelbyville resident who helped present the ordinance in her city in November. “It doesn’t have anything to do with marriage; it has to do with fairness.” Shelbyville Mayor Thomas L. Hardesty said he wants to give City Council members time to review the proposal, but he doubted it would get support. “Shelby County is still a very conservative county,” he said. Shelby County, Shelbyville and Simpsonville have a joint Human Rights Commission that monitors cases of bias involving categories protected under state and federal law, such as race, religion, gender and age. Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for the Family Foundation of Kentucky, said he hasn’t seen proof of the need for extending such protections to the categories of sexual orientation or gender identity. And “I don’t perceive that those laws have any chance right now to pass the legislature,” Cothran added. While acknowledging national liberalizing trends on the issue, he said “there is going to be some point in which the culture shift which is happening stops and levels out. Obviously in the red states, that bottoming-out point is higher than in the blue states.” Kansas voters, for example, rejected gay rights ordinances in two cities last month. Yet, such ordinances are spreading in the heartland. In the past year in Indiana, such smaller cities as New Albany, Evansville and South Bend have adopted them. What the demographic information shows and what our experience shows is it matters less and less to people the reason you are treated unfairly,” said the Rev. Kent Gilbert, pastor of Union Church in Berea and an advocate for an ordinance in that city. “It matters more and more that you are not.” In Elizabethtown, Mayor Tim Walker declined to say how he felt about the proposed ordinance until council members and the city attorney could review it. The measure would exempt certain religious organizations and certain small businesses. One longtime council member, Marty Fulkerson, said his “initial reaction is that it is not needed,” adding, “I would say based on 200 and some-odd employees, we probably have employees that are gay or lesbian that work for the city. I have never heard of any complaint. ... I talked to some of my gay friends today about this. They saw no need for it. They had not been discriminated against and saw no instances of that.” The first complaint he’s heard, he said, came at the council meeting. Elizabethtown resident Andy Frueh said that when he and his partner moved to town several years ago, they were told by a landlord “in no uncertain terms, ‘We do not allow two men to share a single-bedroom lease.’ ” Frueh added, “The sad thing is this type of discrimination is perfectly legal in Elizabethtown, and that is not fair.” Frueh said in an interview that the landlord eventually agreed to rent if only one of the men signed the lease. Frueh and his partner, who later married in Vermont, where same-sex marriage is legal, stayed for a year and eventually bought a house in Elizabethtown. Cothran said opponents of the ordinances have “serious religious liberty concerns about these kinds of laws” as they apply not only “to churches but owners of religious organizations that are not churches and religious owners of regular businesses.” Cothran cited the decision of Catholic adoption agencies to cease operating in some states where they were required to serve same sex couples. Cothran also cited a recent case in which Lexington’s Human Rights Commission sided against a tee shirt printer, Hands On Originals, whose Christian owners cited religious reasons for refusing to print shirts for a gay rights organization. The case is pending. “This was not discrimination against a gay person,” Cothran said. “It was the refusal of a business to produce a product that violated his religious convictions.” Hartman said the ordinances, such as the one proposed for Elizabethtown, exempt religious organizations and religious-operated non-profit groups, though not for-profit business owners, adding” “Built into the law is a pretty explicit attempt to preserve religious freedom, but being able to eat at a local restaurant, that’s the type of public accommodation that really has to be open to everyone.”
In Florida, a Fort Myers man is suing the Lee County Sheriff's Office alleging he was wrongfully arrested on New Year's Day and thrown in jail, where guards taunted him about being gay by singing a show tune from the Wizard of Oz. In a lawsuit filed in Lee Circuit Court this month, Jeffrey Caccamise, 59, alleges he was arrested without probable cause. While in the holding cell he was not only denied toilet paper but the guards sang "Follow the Yellow Brick Road, which references the slang term for a gay man, 'a friend of Dorothy,'" the lawsuit said. Caccamise, of the 1300 block of Mayfair Terrace, was arrested January 1 for misusing 911, a misdemeanor, according to an arrest report. He was booked into jail and released the next day after posting a $1,000 bond. The arrest came at the end of a week of calls to the Sheriff's Office from the home Caccamise shared with his former partner. He and his partner were ending their 26-year relationship and continuously accused each other of battery. However, deputies said no physical evidence supported any allegations of physical violence. When deputies arrived to the final fight on New Year's Day, they attempted to speak with Caccamise's companion alone, but Caccamise kept interrupting, according to an arrest report. He followed them as they went outside the home and then inside, saying he needed to check on the couple’s three small dogs. The situation escalated and the dogs, who were by the deputy's feet, began to jump and bark, reports said. Caccamise called 911, saying the deputy was kicking his dogs, an accusation the deputy denied. The deputy then arrested Caccamise. According to the lawsuit, he remained in a holding cell for six hours while the guards denied him toilet paper and threatened to douse him with pepper spray if he kept asking for it. It also alleges he wasn't booked into jail until the guards left after their shift change and new officers arrived, at least five hours after Caccamise arrived. After Caccamise pleaded not guilty in March, the State Attorney's Office dropped the charge, citing insufficient evidence. The lawsuit, filed in circuit court by attorney Marisa Rae Cochrane of Orlando, seeks compensation for Caccamise's false arrest, wrongful confinement, and assault. Attempts to reach Cochrane for comment were not successful. The Lee County Sheriff's Office does not comment on pending litigation, agency spokesman Sgt. David Velez said. Court records show this is the seventh lawsuit Caccamise has filed. He is also suing the deputy who responded.
In Minnesota, Janeé Harteau won unanimous approval from the City Council on Friday to become Minneapolis' police chief. Harteau, who has spent 25 years on the force, takes over from Tim Dolan, who retired in November. "I want to thank her for her willingness to step forward for what is absolutely the toughest job in the city," Mayor R.T. Rybak said at the council vote Friday. While praising her tenure on the force, Rybak also noted Harteau's 1996 complaint with the Human Rights Department. "I think it's important to point out that we have a chief who's coming in who at one time had complaints about this department and how it treated women," Rybak said. "And I think that's an important value to be bringing to the table. Because in the top job, that top cop can also see when things aren't going right." Harteau told the council that "I won't let you down." Midway through her comments, Harteau became emotional while mentioning Tom Decker, the officer from Cold Spring, Minn., who was shot to death Thursday night. "It's a good day but it's a tough day because we lost one of our own," Harteau said. In a news conference after the vote, Harteau said some of her first priorities involve structural and personnel changes in the department. She also intends to review the department's "use of force" policies, which detail the levels and types of force officers can use in various situations. As for the precedent of having a female, openly gay police chief, Harteau said it wasn't personally significant. "For others it might be," Harteau said. "And if I can be a role model ... I want people to see that you can achieve things despite some obstacles in your way. I stand on my merits on how I got here. I've been given tremendous opportunity." She's scheduled to be sworn in Tuesday in the City Hall
On Saturday, the Associated Press reports that the American Psychiatric Association agreed to amend its diagnostic manual, changing or eliminating a number of terms. Included in the eliminations: the term “gender identity disorder.” It has been used for children or adults who strongly believe that they were born the wrong gender. But many activists believe the condition isn't a disorder and say calling it one is stigmatizing. The term would be replaced with "gender dysphoria,” which means emotional distress over one's gender. Supporters equated the change with removing homosexuality as a mental illness in the diagnostic manual, which happened decades ago.
Liverpool soccer player Suso (whose full name is Jesus Joaquin Fernandez Saez de la Torre) called teammate Jose Enrique “gay” after a photograph appeared online of him having his teeth whitened. According to the Daily Mail, the 19-year-old Suso tweeted, “What the fuck is he doing. This guy is gay ... he does everything except play football.” Suso quite quickly deleted the tweet, and issued an apology of sorts, saying, “I didn’t mean it in the way about ‘gay.’ Don’t want anyone to feel offended. Just joking. But anyway sorry.”
Harry Styles and Taylor Swift spotted in New York City’s Central Park Zoo Sunday, the two accompanied by another couple, and their child.