Covington, Ky., city commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a controversial human rights ordinance, prompting a standing ovation from a crowd of gays, lesbians, and other supporters of the new rules. "I guess the basic question that needs to be asked is, Should we allow discrimination in this community?" commissioner Jerry Bamberger said Tuesday night. "The answer is no."
The law, which Mayor Butch Callery said he hopes will be a model for cities across the country, will take effect in about a week. Gay activists said they plan to build on Tuesday's victory by launching a campaign in nearby Cincinnati against that city charter's Article 12, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 1993. That article prevents the Cincinnati city council from approving any laws that would shield gays and lesbians from discrimination.
Covington's new law bans discrimination based on age, sexual orientation, marital status, and parental status in employment, housing, and public accommodations. City law already prohibited housing discrimination against people because of their disabilities, gender, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, family status, and place of birth. "I think this vote in Covington tonight sets a wonderful tone for the region," said Dean Forster of the Northern Kentucky Fairness Alliance. "It says that Covington is a welcoming place, a diverse place. It's moving forward into the 21st century, and I think it will set a wonderful tone for people across the river [in Cincinnati]."
Bamberger, a commissioner both sides considered most likely to oppose the measure, joined the majority after officials inserted a provision that would force people who file discrimination complaints to pay their opponents' attorney fees if their complaint is ruled misleading, malicious, or frivolous.
Bamberger and the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce complained that without that protection, landlords and businesses could face unfair burdens.