Saturday, February 15, 2003

Covington seeks more input on ordinance

It would ban discrimination against several groups

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - The public will get a second chance to comment on a proposed expansion of Covington's human rights ordinance on March 25.

The new ordinance would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and five other categories.

Next month's hearing will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Covington's Latonia neighborhood, but the exact location has yet to be determined.

Tuesday's hearing at The Madison in downtown Covington drew more than 225 people. However, Covington Mayor Butch Callery said that he heard from a number of senior citizens who were unable to attend because of the weather.

"We want to go out in the neighborhood, so that more people can attend," Callery said.

Anyone who signed up to speak at last Tuesday'shearing but didn't get a chance to address the city commission will be recognized first at the March 25 hearing.

If the Covington City Commission decides to adopt a new human rights ordinance, the first reading would be April 15 and a vote would be taken on April 29, Callery said.

He said the proposed ordinance could still be modified before any vote is taken.

"We're going to be very measured as we move along with it,'' Callery said.

Should Covington decide to expand its human rights ordinance, city officials want to develop legislation that could serve as a national model, the mayor said.

Before voting on the proposal, Callery said city officials want to get feedback from groups such as the Covington Business Council, the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Northern Kentucky Landlords Association, and interested people from the hotel industry. The mayor added copies of the proposed human rights ordinance would be sent to those groups by Feb. 25.

In Cincinnati, those pushing for a repeal of a controversial charter amendment that classifies gays, lesbians and bisexuals as people who aren't protected from discrimination say that the Queen City has lost about $64 million in convention business during the past decade when various groups decided to go elsewhere. Citizens for Community Values, a Sharonville-based anti-pornography group, disputes those figures.

Of the 43 people who addressed the city commission last Tuesday, 40 said that the proposed changes would bring needed social and economic change, while three people said they thought the law was unnecessary and would offer special rights to certain groups of people.

The proposed ordinance would add marital, parental and familial status, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, and place of birth to the list of classes now protected (age, race, sex, color, religion, ancestry and national origin).

It also would ban discrimination in public accommodations and employment, where the current ordinance addresses only housing. The proposed ordinance also would carry penalties, including fines of $100 to $500, to give offenders incentive to correct an unfair situation, supporters say.


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