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Statewide Fairness Law Gets Support From 150 Kentucky Companies

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Some of Kentucky's largest employers are joining the push for a statewide fairness law.

The legislation would add protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents from discrimination in workplaces, housing and public accommodations.

Brown-Forman, Humana, Fifth Third Bank, Chrysalis Ventures and more than 150 other companies are joining the push to pass a statewide fairness law, advocates announced Thursday. The collection of companies is calling itself the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition. A full list of companies taking part in the campaign can be found here.

Advocates have pushed state legislators to adopt a statewide fairness law for the last 16 years. The legislation received its first committee hearing this year, though it failed to advance.

State Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Louisville Democrat, was the co-sponsor of the statewide fairness law.

McGarvey said he plans to reintroduce the bill in the General Assembly session that begins in January. He said the bill would promote inclusiveness and make sense for businesses looking to attract talented workers.

"We just need to reflect that you're not going to get fired simply because of your sexual orientation," he said.

McGarvey said there are about 80,000 LGBT workers in Kentucky.

The bill would add protections for LGBT residents to the state's existing civil rights law. A key to getting support for the bill in the legislature, he said, is getting lawmakers to "realize how simple the bill is."

"We are simply adding sexual orientation to a list of already existing protections," McGarvey said. "And what it protects you from is just as simple as getting fired, where you can go to eat and where you can live."

Louisville's Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman said nearly 25 percent of the state's population is covered by local fairness laws.

"I don't know how many more cities are going to have to pass fairness to make it clear that this is something that Kentuckians value," he said.

Hartman said advocates for a statewide fairness law have yet to meet with Governor-elect Matt Bevin to discuss the proposal's future.

In August, Bevin refused to answer a question from Insider Louisville regarding his position on a statewide fairness law. Before the election, nonprofit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth also asked Bevin and his running mate, Jenean Hampton, if they'd support such a law; neither responded.

Bevin has said he opposes same-sex marriage. But Hartman said that doesn't necessarily mean the incoming governor would oppose a statewide fairness law.

"We certainly hope that Governor-elect Bevin and other Republicans in the state are going to begin expressing support from a conservative viewpoint for statewide fairness," he said.

Hartman noted that state Rep. Denny Butler of Louisville, who on Thursday announced he is switching parties to join House Republicans, co-sponsored fairness legislation during a previous legislative session.

"The question becomes: Just because his party changes, do his values?" he said.

Brown-Forman and Humana earned top scores in the recently released Corporate Equality Index, which is an annual report assessing LGBT inclusion in major companies across the U.S. The report is conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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