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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two gay men forced to leave a government recreational facility in Hazard, KY

Hazard, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation today condemned The Pavilion for ejecting two gay males from their facility. A maintenance technician told the couple and the group present "we own this place and can tell you to leave if we want to."

Kentucky Equality Federation was contacted by Mending Hearts, Inc. an organization that receives Medicaid funding from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

"This is completely outrageous, The Pavilion is owned by the City of Hazard and paid for by our tax dollars," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "Rest assured Kentucky Equality Federation will not tolerate discrimination in any form and our Southern Kentucky volunteer management, as well as our Discrimination, Hate Crimes and School Bullying Committee have planned a peaceful response."

"The Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion," stated Shirlyn Perkins, Executive Director of Mending Hearts, Inc. "My staff asked The Pavilion staff why they were being asked to leave, and they were informed that 'gay people' weren't allowed to swim there. My staff told this man that what he was trying to do was discrimination. The man stated that what he was doing was in the Bible and he could do it. My staff continued to argue with this man, but was ultimately forced to leave. My clients, whom already feel ridiculed and different, left the city owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in 'normal' activities that everyday 'normal' people do."

Kentucky Equality Federation contacted City Manager Carlos Combs, Mayor Nan Gorman and the Office of the Governor.

"The two gay males with developmental and intellectual disabilities were discriminated against by the staff of The Pavilion based on their sexual orientation,” added Kentucky Equality Federation Children of LGBTI Parents Outreach Director Julia Oiler Spiegel. "Not only was this an irreprehensible act by the staff, it was humiliating to these young men and their direct support staff. Both men are clients of Mending Hearts, Inc. which provides support for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Mending Hearts is diligent in providing ongoing support for their clients regarding appropriate behavior within the community and neither of these young men was exhibiting inappropriate public behavior as witnessed by their direct support staff.

Spiegel continued: As a gay parent of a child with a developmental challenge, I am outraged by this complete act of ignorance directed at these young men and their staff. As a public community service, the The Pavilion has a responsibility to provide equal treatment to all members of their facility and to properly educate their staff accordingly. A Biblical comment is totally inappropriate. All citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky should be treated with equality and respect, based not only on their intellectual abilities but their sexual orientation as well. This was a humiliating experience for both of these young men and will not be tolerated. I demand a public apology, not only these young men, but to the clients and staff of Mending Hearts, Inc. as well as the LGBTI community of Perry County."

Kentucky Equality Federation's Assistant Regional Director for Southern Kentucky, Will Taylor is planning a protest of City Hall and The Pavilion. "The only way to stop the upcoming protest is an official apology for the way these people have been treated, and immediate corrective action." stated Taylor.

Palmer added: "This would be no if Mr. Haynes, The Pavilion staff member involved was forced to leave a community facility (and therefore owned by the citizens) because he did not share Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist beliefs; region has no place in government.

So far the Mayor's Office has stated all people are welcome at The Pavilion, but I defer to the judgment of our Southern Kentucky management and statewide outreach directors who demand an official apology to avoid a protest outside City Hall and The Pavilion.

In addition, should an apology and corrective action not be forthcoming, we call on Governor Beshear to rescind funding to The Pavilion and the City of Hazard in the spirit of his executive order prohibiting discrimination of LGBTI people in Kentucky government."

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