ACLU, Kentucky gay-rights group take up defense of anti-discrimination laws

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Responding to recent lawsuits by a Christian-based law firm against Kentucky
gay-rights laws, the American Civil Liberties Union and a gay-rights group have
sought to intervene and defend the laws.

In September and again in November, a physician represented by the socially
conservative American Center for Law and Justice filed a federal lawsuit against
Louisville and Jefferson County laws that punish employers who discriminate
against employees because of sexual orientation. In both those suits, Barrett
Hyman, a Louisville obstetrician who employs six people, claims the gay-rights
laws violated his religious liberties and other fundamental rights.

Hyman’s federal complaint against the Jefferson County gay-rights law, which
carries a $50,000 fine for third-time violators, says his Christian beliefs
prevent him from hiring gays. Hyman says that gays and lesbians “are sinful and
grievously offensive to God.”

The ACLJ and Hyman want the federal judge to declare the Louisville and
Jefferson County laws unconstitutional.

Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union, representing Dan Farrell and
Diane Moten, leaders of the Fairness Campaign, a gay and lesbian rights group in
Kentucky, filed a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuits. The Fairness
Campaign successfully lobbied city and county lawmakers to adopt the
anti-discrimination ordinances earlier in the year.

“The Fairness Campaign, Farrell and Moten clearly have a significant interest
in the validity of the Fairness Ordinance,” the ACLU argued in its six-page
motion. “As the leading actor in the political process that led to the enactment
of the ordinances, the Fairness Campaign and its members have an interest in
defending the legislation. Moreover, given the persistence of discrimination
against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered persons based on their
sexual orientation and gender identities, members of the Fairness Campaign,
including Farrell and Moten, benefit from the validity of the Fairness Ordinance
and rely on it for their economic security.”

Michael Adams, associate director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights
Project, said religious arguments had been used before to attempt to stifle the
passage of state and federal civil rights protections for African-Americans.

“The notion that religious beliefs should allow employers to discriminate is
nothing more than a smokescreen for prejudice,” Adams said in a prepared
statement. “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.”

Frank Manion, the senior ACLJ attorney who is representing Hyman, told that he was “surprised and saddened” that the ACLU had not
sought to defend his client.

“I thought that the ACLU was all about protecting rights of individuals
against government overreaching,” Manion said. “It seems highly hypocritical for
the ACLU to be defending government power to suppress individual rights.”

Manion said that the Kentucky physician does not “want to take anything away
from gay people.” Hyman “simply wants to live and run his business in accordance
with his religious beliefs.”

Manion’s group also recently filed a similar suit in Kentucky state court
challenging a Henderson County law that bars sexual-orientation discrimination
in employment and housing. Manion is representing several landlords who, because
of their Christian beliefs, don’t want to rent property to