The City of Paducah's Human Rights Commission should still be considered the 'first stop' for all complaints of discrimination, under the new ordinance, said Mayor Brandi Harless.
The city passed an ordinance last week expanding the Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints of sexual orientation and gender identity, while directing other investigative duties to the state. The move was lauded by the local and state LGBTQ community and supporters and was opposed by residents who said they were concerned about religious freedom.
The HRC is now charged with allocating resources towards investigating LGBTQ-related complaints, whereas they had previously investigated all complaints. The HRC, however, will still facilitate the filing of other complaints: race, color, religion, age, familiar status, handicap, sex and national origin to be sent to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. The state commission has more resources, said Harless.
"If it is something with sexual orientation or gender identity, that will be processed through an investigative protocol locally, only because at the state level they do not have such protections," she said.
Harless said the local HRC will still serve as an intake for complaints and, with the passage of the new ordinance, is partnering with the state commission to develop processes.
In addition to handling complaints, the HRC also engages in community outreach and public education programs that aim to promote equality. Harless said the HRC board is developing new ideas for outreach, under the new ordinance. The board can also bring recommendations to the mayor and city commission for potential legislation and can accept grants and donations.
The new ordinance also reduces the number of members from nine to five and eliminates the executive director position. Harless said the commission, chair and office administrator have been able to handle claims and outreach duties. She said as those grow and change, there's no reason why the HRC couldn't ask the city for an executive director in the future.