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Assessing 25 Years Of Fairness In Louisville

99VICTORY (1) Fairness
Courtesy Fairness Campaign

Louisville’s Fairness Campaign is marking its 25th anniversary this weekend with an event that commemorates the social justice organization’s history while looking to the future.

It goes without saying that in the past quarter-century, a lot has changed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Louisville. The city approved a landmark Fairness ordinance in 1999, barring employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. An Atherton High School student’s request to use the restroom that fit her gender identity resulted in a school-wide nondiscrimination policy that set the stage for a nationwide debate earlier this year.

And last year, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalized same-sex marriage for couples around the country.

These are all major milestones for LGBT rights in Louisville and across the country. But the people who have been major players in the Fairness Campaign have their own ideas about what’s changed since the organization was founded by 10 Louisville activists in 1991.

We asked some of them to share their thoughts on what's changed since Fairness started. Here's what they said:

Chris Hartman, Fairness Campaign Director
“I think that where we are now is a dramatically different place than we were in the beginning of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. Obviously the tipping point of marriage equality was huge and signaled a seismic shift in the movement. And the backlash has created this new conversation as well around transgender rights, which the country wasn’t having previously, really.”

Jeff Rodgers, Co-Founder
“We didn’t have the word ‘intersectionality’ at the time (the Fairness Campaign was founded), but the principle of that was the same, you know, that we all have to move forward together, nobody can be left behind. That meant we had to be looking at issues of equality and justice, not only for lesbian, gay, and then bisexual, and then transgender people, but also women and people of color, and we had to be looking at economic issues and economic justice, environmental justice, that it was all interconnected.”

Keith Brooks, Former Fairness Campaign Board Member and Co-Coordinator
“When I came out 12 years ago, I felt very vulnerable. I was around 19 years old, and it was my freshman year in college, and there wasn’t much representation in the media for LGBT youth. That has definitely expanded significantly.”

Carla Wallace, Co-Founder
“When you ask people, 'how did things change,' people will say, ‘oh well, the courts made a decision’ or they will say ‘oh, there were all those great TV programs.’ And what gets missed is the on-the-ground, conversation-by-conversation and political and community organizing work that we had to do to build a consensus for equality."

Lisa Gunterman, Co-Founder
“So much has changed, and at the same time, things remain the same. One of the things that’s still hard for me to wrap my head around is that it’s 2016 and we still don’t have statewide fairness legislation. I never thought we would pass marriage before the right to keep your job.”

The Fairness Campaign’s 25th Anniversary Celebration will feature a performance by the band Yer Girlfriend, along with a spoken-word piece that traces the organization’s history. It takes place Friday night at the Henry Clay.