Letter to the Editor 1-23-15

A recent editorial and political cartoon in The News suggested that citizens who voiced their concerns about a controversial issue to the city council “speaks volumes about the negativity people still experience.”  Exactly who experienced negativity because of these comments is unclear.  Concerned citizens of Murray simply shared their concerns with their elected representatives.  How did those communications “speak volumes” about anything and how did they come across as negative?

The News’ editorial stated “to say that LGBT members should be discriminated against … is hateful and counterproductive,” and that “to turn them away and stifle their opportunities not only hurts them, but hurts the community as well.”

What we have here is a fictional narrative about life in Murray.  The implication is that any opposition amounts to bigotry and hate and that Murray is a town full of human rights abusers.

It should be clear to college level students and aspiring journalists that disagreement does not equal discrimination. Significant policy proposals should be accompanied by robust debate, mutual respect and an attempt at better understanding.

Demonizing and caricaturing the opposition as a political cartoon recently printed in The News isn’t helpful or constructive toward those ends.

  Consider that the proposed ordinance essentially elevates sexual identity and sexual orientation to civil rights status on par with race and ethnicity. It would make it illegal to make a judgment on sexual orientation or gender identity regarding housing, employment and public accommodations. While nobody should condone ugly or bigoted treatment toward a fellow human being, several questions should be answered before the city council takes action.

Good journalists would ask, “why is this ordinance needed?” They would point to documented cases of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination (there are none in Murray). Good journalists would ask, “how does this ordinance affect those opposed to it?”  (It has been used in other cities and states to punish business owners who refuse to materially participate through their products or services in gay weddings).

We were once told that somebody’s private sexual life is nobody’s business. Should this ordinance pass, it drags one’s sex life into the hiring process and politicizes the workplace. Here’s how: if employers shouldn’t ask about somebody’s private sex life during an interview and the prospective employee doesn’t bring this up, then how can an employer be held accountable for failing to hire somebody based on their sexual orientation?

Truth is, most business owners are having trouble finding hard working and qualified employees. They are most concerned about finding reliable workers who contribute to their team.  

No credible employers are going out of their way to look for a reason not to hire an otherwise well-qualified employee. Unfortunately, The News failed to report on both sides of the story.  If you disagree with their position, you will be considered intolerant.

If you don’t support this ordinance, in their opinion, you don’t understand basic human rights.  Such rhetorical thuggery is polarizing and hinders serious discussion of important policy considerations.

We trust the Murray City Council to thoroughly consider the implications of this issue and not be bullied into passing an ordinance that amounts to bad public policy.

Letter from Richard Nelson, Executive Director Commonwealth Policy Center, and Andy French, President Commonwealth Policy Center

1 Comment on "Letter to the Editor 1-23-15"

  1. Michael Harmon | January 29, 2015 at 5:53 pm |

    Oh, my. The Executive Director, Richard Nelson, and the President, Andy French, of the Commonwealth Policy Center (henceforth CPC) have set forth their perspective on a pressing legal issue. The conflict revolves around a revision to Murray Kemtucky's Human Rights Ordinance. It seems that having it be "unlawful, based upon race, color, religion, natural origin, sex, age (over 40), gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status or physical disability of any type, to discriminate in employment, public accommodations or housing practices" in the Friendliest Small Town in America's is unacceptable to the CPC leadership.

    Or wait a minute, maybe the ordinance is acceptable but the opposition to it must be equally acceptable as a fundamental aspect of both civics and journalism. Yes, and it seems that it is not only "unclear" who might be offended by those opposing equal rights for our fellow LGBT citizens, but that such offense is actually "fictional" in the context of "life in Murray". Further any negative commentary about opposition to the ordinance "isn't helpful."

    Wow, that's some really well chiseled stuff. You gotta hand it to Dick and Andy how they go from human rights opponent to the best intended cultural spokesmen for balance and integrity in the course of a just few paragraphs. Seriously well crafted… that is, until they decide to shift from speaking earnestly to neutral parties to throwing their real audience the meaty little bones of bigotry. Their words:

    "Consider that the proposed ordinance essentially elevates sexual identity and sexual orientation to civil rights status on par with race and ethnicity." Essentially elevates. Did you catch that? Yes, sexual identity is actually beneath race and ethnicity and is only artificially elevated by this ordinance.

    And there is it. This is the bigoted core of the CPC assertion: their opposition to the ordinance is justified because sexual orientation is actually beneath the level of a protectable class. A meaty bone indeed. As is this calcified gem: "…the ordinance "drags one's sex life into the hiring process…," as if sexual orientations best remain forever hidden. And finally equating any negative depiction of their opposition as "rhetorical thuggery!" (The fans no doubt still gnawing over that little knuckle)

    It's cultural engineering, folks. Never mind that sexual orientation is fully protected on at the national level. Never mind that the arch of history is unequivocal in the assertion of minority rights against the exploitation and repression of the past. Never mind that even the likes of Murray Kentucky civil society now feels free to formalize this truth for all it's citizens. Never mind all that If sexual identity and equality can be culturally suppressed for even one more day, then that's a victory for the CPC and everything they stand for. And I for one, cannot and will not stand for that.

    I assert, here and now and forever, unequivocally and unapologetically, with history as my authority and God Almighty as my witness that opposition to the City of Murray's Human Rights ordinance such as that expressed by the CPC's elite is ethically and morally beneath the dignity and righteousness of it's supporters. Let the revised language stand. Pass the ordinance.

    -Michael Harmon – Citizen of Murray, Kentucky.

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