Saturday, March 10, 2001

Gay-rights law up for repeal

Henderson issue remains divisive

The Associated Press

        HENDERSON, Ky. — As James Matthews puffs on a miniature cigar at the counter of the Eastgate Family Restaurant, he explains why Henderson doesn't need an ordinance protecting gays from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

        “I think there's enough laws to protect everybody,” says Mr. Matthews, 66. “Do you see anybody being unfair to anybody in this town?”

[photo] Henderson doesn't need a gay-rights ordinance, says James Matthews, 66, of Spotsville.
(Associated Press photo)
        Jack Caton, 54, a bearded man in bib overalls, joins in the conversation from a nearby table. “It's a disgusting thing,” said Mr. Caton, who owns a mobile home dealership. “If anybody reads the Bible or anything, they'd know God doesn't want it.”

        Even though Henderson's so-called fairness ordinance is likely to be repealed Tuesday by the Henderson City Council because anti-ordinance forces won enough council seats in the November election to do away with the law, the Ohio River city with 26,000 residents remains divided.

        “Anything anybody wants to do is their business,” said James Sutton, 72, also at the diner, who doesn't have a problem with the ordinance. Mr. Sutton says he learned tolerance for others while in the Navy and spending time in prison. Bob Hall, a gay rights ordinance opponent, was elected last fall. That tipped the balance of the five-member council in favor of ordinance opponents.

        The issue pitted church against church and neighbor against neighbor. At a public hearing on the ordinance it was standing room only as people lined up from both sides to state their opinion. The issue polarized the town, Mr. Hall said.

        No discrimination complaints were filed with the city under the gay rights ordinance, said Katherine Goodman, co-chairwoman of a local gay-rights group.

        In Kentucky, similar gay-rights ordinances have been passed in communities such as Lexington, Louisville and Jefferson County.

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