Politics

Study up and Vote y’all: Queer Kentucky Nov. Election Picks

by Ben Giehart

As I’m sure most Kentuckians are well aware, Kentucky is a red state. There are exceptions of course. As a whole, big cities like Louisville and Lexington are decently progressive – as one might expect. There are pockets of other cities and towns littered throughout the state that harbor modern civil rights laws that protect LGBTQ+ citizens from discrimination, but that covers only about 25 percent of the commonwealth. Consequently, it’s easy to lose hope that a vote in Kentucky ever really counts towards progress.

On a national scale, there is some truth to that – at least the way the electoral college is currently set up. As is most often the case however, change starts small and it starts within. 

Kentucky’s 2019 Election Day is Tuesday, November 5. If you have no clue who to vote for or would like a refresher on who to consider for governor and other state executives, QueerKentucky has got you covered. There are several big races coming down the pike whose results could mean the beginning of serious change for Kentucky.

Governor

Andy Beshear is Kentucky’s current attorney general and won the 2019 Democratic primary. He is running with lieutenant gubernatorial nominee, Assistant High School Principal Jacqueline Coleman. This race marks the most likely opportunity for Kentuckians to end Republican trifecta control (when one party controls the governor’s office and holds majorities in both chambers of the legislature) in the state.

His platform focuses on making public education a priority for the state, supporting term limits on all elected officials and improving state transparency as well as increasing wages for workers.

Beshear is running against current Governor Matt Bevin, who has been a consistent news presence during his tenure. It should be stressed again, that this race is a big opportunity for Kentucky and its citizens.

To learn more about Beshear and his campaign, please visit https://andybeshear.com/.

Attorney General

With current Attorney General Andy Beshear running for Governor, this affords Republicans the opportunity to vote in one of their own in this position, so it is important that Democratic turnout be high for this race as well.

Greg Stumbo is the Democratic nominee and is a former member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, representing District 95 from 1981 to 2005 and from 2009 to 2017. It is also worth noting that he has served as Kentucky attorney general previously from 2005 to 2007. He is an extremely experienced candidate who could bring some stability to state government.

His platform focuses on his legal experience (he has practiced law for over 40 years and written laws as a state legislator), his opposition to drug companies that he says are responsible for bringing opioids into Kentucky and improving public access to the attorney general’s office.

To learn more about Stumbo and his campaign, please visit https://www.stumboforag.com/.

Secretary of State

Heather French Henry is the Democratic candidate for Kentucky secretary of state. She is perhaps the most popular candidate in this year’s Democratic field and, therefore, the most likely to win. As always, voter turnout is essential to secure this.

Henry is a former Miss American, but more importantly, she has served both Governor Beshear and Governor Bevin as the commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. In that role, she has served over 300,000 veterans in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, making her a candidate with a fair amount of experience and possible partisan support.

Her platform focuses on voter security and accessibility, civics education and historic document preservation.

To learn more about Henry and her campaign, please visit https://www.supportheatherfrenchhenry.com/.

Agriculture Commissioner

Robert Conway is the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner. He has extensive experience as the current district supervisor of the Scott County Soil and Water Conservation Board along with membership to several agricultural boards throughout the state. He is an eighth generation family farmer in Kentucky with farms in Scott and Harrison County.

His priorities as commissioner will be investing in schools and educators to develop a new generation of farmers, and he is also a strong supporter of legalizing cannabis to replace tobacco as a state cash crop. He believes that this will bring revenue and jobs to the state.

To learn more about Conway and his campaign, please visit https://www.conwayforky19.com/.

Auditor

Sheri Donahue is the Democratic nominee for state auditor, and while her resume is not overtly political, it is perhaps the most impressive of all the candidates.

Donahue holds a BS in industrial engineers from Purdue University. She spent 20 years working for the U. S. Navy and served as program manager in security and intelligence. She has assisted on projects for the Navy, Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. She also served as president and executive director for the Cyber Conflict Studies Association where she worked with government, private corporations and academia to study cyber threats.

She brings a lot of intelligence to the playing field and as auditor, promises to restore community engagement, charitable involvement and faith in government for the people of Kentucky.

To learn more about Donahue and her campaign, please visit https://donahueforky.com/.

State Treasurer

Michael Bowman is the Democratic candidate for state treasurer. He has long been active in volunteer work for local politics and ran for Jefferson County Clerk in 2018. He has served as a general manager for Yum! Brands, regional coordinator for the Southwest members of Louisville Metro Council and in 2012, was appointed as chief legislative assistant to District 14 Councilwoman Cindi Fowler.

He is currently a bank officer and branch manager for one of the largest banks in the country and is poised to jump on the political stage. 

If elected, his three priorities are accountability by providing checks and balances for the executive branch, protecting state investments ethically and investing in new technologies and finding efficiencies in how the state treasurer’s office operates.

Notably, Bowman is the only candidate listed here who is openly gay.

To learn more about Bowman and his campaign, please visit https://www.bowmanforkentucky.com/.

Each of these candidates brings something unique and valuable to the table. They each require your support in the general election. Vote for yourself and vote for Kentucky. To register to vote, please visit www.GoVoteKY.com. The deadline is October 7, 2019. 

Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky Ready to Fight With New Bill

by Ben Gierhart

In 2019, The Trevor Project, the country’s leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people, conducted a landmark national survey. This first-of-its-kind survey is the compilation of data from the responses of over 34,000 LGBTQ young people under 25 from all 50 states, and the results are sobering. According to the survey, 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months. Seventy-one percent reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two consecutive weeks in the past year. Two in three LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.

In a culture where it’s easy to believe that the worst of heteronormative culture has passed, it is stunning to know that not only is conversion therapy still being practiced, it is still such a devastating and sometimes savage practice. Tanner Mobley, former advocacy intern and director at Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, agrees: “Learning that 23 percent of LGBTQ youth who undergo conversion therapy attempt suicide, I felt that I couldn’t wait around for someone to take on the fight to protect Kentucky’s youth from these dangerous practices.”

Prior to joining the campaign for the survey, Mobley admits that he naively believed that conversion therapy was a thing of the past. It wasn’t until he heard Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, recount his experience with conversion therapy that he learned the truth. In 2017, Mobley and Austin Adam, a friend of Mobley’s who was similarly inspired, reached out to the Fairness Campaign for guidance on submitting legislation.

What started as two co-sponsors on their bill grew to five the following year. “I created a Facebook event for folks interested in forming an organization to protect youth from conversion therapy, and in November 2018 a group of lawyers, mental health professionals, students and faith leaders came together to form Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky (BCTK),” reports Mobley.

As a result of Mobley and BCTK’s core organizers’ hard work, Representative Lisa Willner and Senator Morgan McGarvey supported BCTK’s bills in 2019 with a record number of 20 House co-sponsors and three Senate co-sponsors.

In the time since BCTK began, the Kentucky Youth Law Project has become BCTK’s fiscal sponsor. With their aid, BCTK has established a board, created a social media presence and started raising awareness on the issue of conversion therapy. BCTK has also successfully gained endorsements from over 50 organizations including the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers KY and the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, all huge wins for the grassroots organization.

BCTK hopes to ride that momentum into the 2020 state legislative session with four years of experience under their belt as well as a host of creative strategies to implement.

One such strategy is the inception of the Ban Conversion Therapy Ambassador program. “Ambassadors help us raise awareness through gathering petition signatures, tabling, gathering data, and other important work,” says Mobley. These positions are available to anyone living in the state of Kentucky who are able to commit one to two hours a week for at least six months.

BCTK’s goals for the future are both logistical and legislative. They are currently seeking to expand their marketing team and bring on a faith organizer to help get Kentucky faith communities involved in their work, a major shot in the arm as the majority of the facilities and institutions that offer conversion therapy are religious or faith-based in some capacity.

Mobley is also optimistic that the latest iteration of the BCTK bill will receive bipartisan support. “…nearly half of the laws passed to protect LGBTQ youth from these harmful practices … were signed by GOP governors, including states like New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada,” he says.

As for the bill itself, per Mobley, “It would prohibit state-licensed mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a young person under 18 years of age in Kentucky.” The language is firm in its aims, but what’s most remarkable about the bill is perhaps what is doesn’t do.

There is nothing in the bill that prohibits competent adults from seeking conversion therapy. BCTK’s position isn’t that they believe conversion therapy is beneficial for adults, but the strategy is that the bill’s specificity may appeal to the values of conservatives who may consider the constitutional right for adults to make their own decisions regarding treatment they believe to be necessary paramount. “Because the danger posed by conversion therapy is great, BCTK is focused on protecting children, youth and vulnerable adults,” adds Mobley.

The tactics involved in conversion therapy range from bizarre to nightmarish. It is an antiquated, ineffective, deadly practice, and it is time that the citizens of Kentucky unite to relegate it to a sad footnote in the history books. With movements like Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky active in our state, that dream is truly, finally possible.

To learn more about Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, apply to become a BCTK Ambassador (applications open on September 15) and donate to the Kentucky Youth Law Project, visit https://banconversiontherapyky.org/.

To read The Trevor Project’s 2019 survey, visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2019/?section=Introduction.

Georgetown, KY Passes LGBTQ Fairness Ordinance 5-3

Georgetown — With a vote of 5-3 tonight, the Scott County, Kentucky town of Georgetown, population 34,395, became the thirteenth city in the commonwealth with a Fairness Ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Georgetown is the latest in a string of Kentucky cities that have recently voted to approve Fairness Ordinances this year, including the Northern Kentucky town of Dayton last month and the Western Kentucky city Henderson in May.

After narrowly voting to table the issue more than two years ago, members of the Georgetown City Council recently encouraged Mayor Tom Prather to bring the Fairness Ordinance back before the council for another vote. For more than four years, grassroots organizers working with the Rolling Bluegrass Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), Georgetown Fairness, and the Fairness Campaign have called on local leaders to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. In 2016, the first Georgetown Pride Community Picnic was held by local advocates to raise awareness of LGBTQ discrimination and build support for the local Fairness Ordinance.

Twelve other Kentucky cities have adopted local Fairness Ordinances, covering just over a quarter of the state’s population—Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), Henderson (2019), and Dayton (2019).

2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

Kentucky Fairness Campaign Director arrested for Protesting KFB Discrimination policies

Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman and fairness advocates Sonja De Vries and Carla Wallace were dragged out of the Kentucky State Fair’s ham breakfast for the Kentucky Farm Bureau Thursday morning.

The three were arrested after protesting KFB’s discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people.

Each year, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance customers are automatically charged a fee that enrolls them as compulsory members of the company’s 501(c)4 lobbying arm, which spent nearly $100,000 last year lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly on policies outlined in their printed policy book, which elected officials receive but policyholders do not.

The policy book includes positions that are anti-LGBTQ, anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-choice, anti-POC, pro-death penalty, and more, They recently added a policy targeting transgender students in Kentucky schools. Anyone can download a full copy of the 2019 Kentucky Farm Bureau Policies book at Fairness.org/KFB.

In 2015, three protesters were arrested for standing in silent protest of the policies at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled 2-1 against activists’ First Amendment and False Arrest claims against the Kentucky State Police in Hartman et al. v Thompson et al.

Letter to the Editor: Openly gay Kentucky man to challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate

Jimmy Ausbrooks official Facebook

Dear Editor, 

I wanted to reach out to the readers of Queer Kentucky and announce my candidacy for the United States Senate. I am a native of Kentucky, a mental health counselor, and a proud gay man that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community. 

I grew up in rural Simpson County, raised by my grandparents and attended church regularly as a child. I feared coming out due to the stigma within both my family and the community I lived. Today, I live in the same community, but discovered the courage to live my life and pursue my career and my dreams. I graduated from college and took off to see the world. Those experiences allowed me to discover the man I am today.

I elected to go back to school after twenty years in retailmanagement and become a mental health counselor. I did accomplish my goal of becoming a counselor and now provide gay affirming therapy in addition to substance and mental health counseling. I strive to be a positive role model within not only mycommunity, but the state and hopefully soon on a national stage. I am the President of the Kentucky Association for LGBT Issues in Counseling (KALGBTIC), a Division of the Kentucky Counseling Association. I also serve as the Vice-President of the South Central Kentucky Mental Health Counseling Association and Chair the Advocacy Committee. In the past few months I have drafted letters to the Bowling Green City Commissioners advocating for the Fairness Ordinance. I plan to hold the first LGBT Mental Health Conference in the state early 2020 and win the 2020 Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.  

I am running against the third most powerful Republican in the United States. I have the goal of defeating and unseating Mitch McConnell in 2020. It is time that Kentucky’s Pride is restored and true representation for Kentucky takes place. As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community I was tired of business as usual in Washington. Seeing continued failure to get any work done in the U. S. Senate, like not bringing the Equality Act to the Senate floor. Our community deserves equal protect and equal representation.  

I support many progressive policy ideas like free education, student loan debt forgiveness, healthcare for all, mental healthcare expansions, affordable prescriptions, immigration reform, living wages, term limits, tax reform, common sense gun legislation, balancing the budget, climate change and most importantly equality for all, including women’s right to govern their own body and reproductive rights, in addition to EQUALITY for the LGBTQ+ community. 

I am a hardworking individual that lives paycheck to paycheck like so many American’s do, I don’t have deep pockets, wealthy friends, or special interest groups funding my campaign. I do have a passion, a vision, and heart. I would like to have the support of the LGBTQ+ community, labor unions, farmers, hardworking families, teachers, and any man or woman that is tired of not being represented in Washington. 

I want to restore the duty of Congress. I am about the people’s interest and not my personal interest, providing true leadership, and demanding both action and accountability from leadership. I am humbly asking for your support of my candidacy. I would like to request both an endorsement of Queer Kentucky and the support of Queer Kentucky readers. 

Together, we can give a voice to the voiceless, expand equal rights, and build a bridge to the Equality. My campaign is about building bridges not walls. Stand with me and you stand for Equality, you stand with me we can defeat and unseat Mitch McConnell and keep Kentucky moving forward. Together, we will change the direction on policy, equality, and basic human rights. 

Sincerely, 

Jimmy Ausbrooks, M. Ed., LPCA                                                                                                                     Candidate for the United States Senate 2020

12th Kentucky city adopts LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinance!

DAYTON — With a unanimous vote of 5-0 tonight, the Northern Kentucky town of Dayton, population 5,338, became the twelfth city in the Commonwealth with a Fairness Ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

“Dayton is extremely excited to be able to join the other eleven cities, out of 419 in the Commonwealth, to continue to be the welcoming community we know and love,” said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker upon the ordinance’s passage. “If any other river cities need help in embracing the Fairness Ordinance, please reach out. We urge our state leaders to adopt these protections—in Kentucky, y’all means all.”

Dayton City Councilman Joe Neary added, “I genuinely hope this carries up to the state level so cities don’t have to deal by this city by city. I can’t believe we’ll only be the twelfth in the Commonwealth.”

“We expect Dayton will be the first in a series of Northern Kentucky cities to adopt Fairness Ordinances,” shared Northern Kentucky Fairness leader Bonnie Meyer, who also helps run the Northern Kentucky Pride Festival. “We were proud to see Covington challenge its peer cities to follow their lead on LGBTQ rights.”

Eleven other Kentucky cities have adopted local Fairness Ordinances, covering just over a quarter of the state’s population—Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), and Henderson (2019). 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

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