Previewing National Battle, ACLU Backs Fairness Campaign In Bid to Protect Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Affiliate: ACLU of Kentucky
December 13, 1999 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Kentucky
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


Previewing National Battle, ACLU Backs Fairness Campaign In Bid to Protect Non-Discrimination Ordinance


LOUISVILLE, KY– After finally triumphing in a decade-long battle to pass city- and county-wide sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination laws, the Fairness Campaign, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, today began to fight off a man’s claim that the measures violate his religious liberty.

In legal papers filed this morning in federal district court here, the ACLU of Kentucky and the ACLU’s national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project asked the court for permission to enter two lawsuits challenging the civil rights laws on behalf of the Fairness Campaign, a grassroots social justice group based in Louisville, and two of its members.

The legal struggle comes as Kentucky, which many consider the bellwether for passage of local civil rights ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, emerges as the focal point of a national debate over civil rights laws and religious liberty.

At a news conference here today, Dan Farrell, co-coordinator of the Fairness Campaign, said the legal attacks on the new laws were part of a cynical and organized campaign to justify discrimination by invoking religious beliefs.

“Religious liberty is really precious in this country, but that doesn’t mean you can use your faith to discriminate against other people, and that’s exactly what these lawsuits are all about,” he said.

The legal challenges, brought on behalf of a local doctor by the American Center for Law and Justice — a conservative legal group founded by Pat Robertson — seek to have recently enacted ordinances in Louisville and surrounding Jefferson County declared invalid.

According to the lawsuits, Dr. J. Barrett Hyman, a local obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice, said he believes that “departures from monogamous heterosexual relations are sinful and grievously offensive to God,” and that lesbian and gay people are “morally unfit for employment” in his medical practice.

Similar religious arguments were invoked against passage of federal and state Civil Rights Acts in the 1960’s and 70’s by individuals and institutions that refused to hire African Americans, religious minorities, and women, the ACLU noted.

“The notion that religious beliefs should allow employers to discriminate is nothing more than a smokescreen for prejudice,” said Michael Adams, Associate Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “These challenges lack merit because our laws and Constitution don’t allow people to use personal religious beliefs as an excuse to deny someone a job or a place to live.”

Diane Moten, a member of the Fairness Campaign seeking to enter the lawsuit, said personal experience has taught her that such discrimination is all too real. Two years ago, she was fired from a day care center after her employer learned that she is a lesbian. Even though many of the parents asked the center to reconsider, Moten lost her job. The new measures, however, now give her legal protection from such treatment.

“I have experienced prejudice and discrimination as an African American, as a woman and as a lesbian,” she said. “If this lawsuit is successful, what’s to stop anyone from using religion to discriminate against me and others on the basis of race or sexual orientation or even religion?”

Recognizing the threat to a broad range of civil rights, to date more than 20 religious, civil rights and other community organizations have signed statements in support of the Fairness Campaign/ACLU legal action, including the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Community Federation, the Jefferson County chapter of the National Organization of Women, and Kentucky Jobs with Justice. Many of the groups were present at today’s news conference.

“Kentucky’s modern-day civil rights movement may come as a surprise to some who see the state as a part of ‘conservative’ America,” said Adams. “In fact, it’s clear to us that religious extremists are stymied by the Fairness Campaign’s successful grassroots effort in Kentucky and are now trying to head off a ‘brushfire’ effect in other so-called conservative states,” he added.

A similar contest was played out in the national arena this summer during debate over proposed federal religious liberty protection legislation. Civil rights groups ultimately withdrew their support of the bill because, as written, it could have been used as a weapon to undermine the hard-won civil rights of racial minorities, unmarried couples, women and gays and lesbians, among others.

Complete background information on the case, including the motion to intervene, a list of local supporters, a fact sheet on the proposed federal religious liberty law, and a list of state, city and county nondiscrimination ordinances nationwide, is available online at:

ACLU Freedom Network Website:

Fairness Campaign Website:

ACLU of Kentucky Website:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The Latest in LGBTQ Rights

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ issue image

The ACLU works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association.