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What Kentucky's Fairness Campaign Learned from Vicco, Kentucky

Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign leaders say they plan to use the small eastern Kentucky city of Vicco as a model for grassroots movements pushing fairness ordinances in other cities.

Last week, Vicco became the fourth Kentucky cityand the smallest city nationwide to adopt a fairness ordinance. The law protects all residents from discrimination regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion or age.“The sentiment was overwhelmingly positive. In fact there was no one from the community that showed up to comment against the passing of the ordinances,” Vicco city attorney Eric Ashley said.The city worked with the Fairness Campaign to craft the ordinance, which was eventually pared down to two pages. The model law that Ashley started with was over 20-pages.“In a community with only half a dozen businesses in it, it seemed a little much to pass a 26 or 27-page law,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign located in Louisville. “So the city attorney really distilled the ordinance there and made a law that would work for a community the size that Vicco is.” Due to Vicco’s success, Hartman said the Fairness Campaign may begin using the pared down version to model in other small cities with grassroots movements pushing for a similar law.“I think that we’ll be able to use his [Ashley’s] work and maybe his assistance moving forward in some of the other small communities that maybe a little uncertain about what a fairness ordinance does and does not do,” Hartman said.Vicco’s law removed the provision in the model ordinance establishing a Human Rights Commission to review complaints, but Hartman says the city has its own system in place that better reflects its government’s size.Under the law, the city will appoint a council member to be the intake officer to accept complaints--though Ashley said he doesn’t expect many. The council member will then determine if a violation likely occurred and, at their discretion, may “perform whatever investigation into the matter they deem fit.”If it’s determined a violation likely occurred there would be a hearing in front of the entire city council.Hartman says there are grassroots movements in over a dozen Kentucky cities that are working on a fairness ordinance proposal in some manner--cities like Berea are further along than others.Other cities where there is some movement pushing for a fairness ordinance include Danville, Owensboro, Murray, and Richmond.

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