June 14, 2011

KENTUCKY CITY OUTLAWS KISSING AND HUGGING

OUTRAGE: TWO DISABLED MEN EJECTED FROM CITY POOL FOR PDA


Hazard, Kentucky: It's that time of year when the temperature in Appalachia starts to get warm. The thermometer has been hovering near the 80 degree mark, and residents of Hazard Kentucky have a city pool, The Pavilion, that they can enjoy during the dog days of summer. A group of developmentally disabled men and women were taken to The Pavilion, for a swim. They were being supervised by caregivers from Mending Hearts, a licensed medicare provider that provides alternatives to institutional care for the disabled.

A maintenance man for the city approached the group, and told them that they had to leave, because one of the men in the group sat on the other's knee and put his arm around him. The two men happen to be gay.

Shirley Perkins, Executive Director of Mending Hearts related that “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."

Paul Collins, Hazard City Attorney, told a reporter that he is still investigating the matter, and that there is a “wide disparity between the versions of the events.” The disparity Collins refers to is that a lifeguard has alleged that the two men were openly displaying affection, and were kissing and hugging. The owner of Mending Hearts told the same reporter that there was no kissing or hugging.

This incident has nothing to do with kissing and hugging! If they did kiss and hug, and are happy, then bravo! Let's embrace that. I don't buy that explanation. It appears that the city is attempting to justify their discriminatory acts, by alleging kissing and hugging. We will probably hear that the city of Hazard is going to outlaw kissing and hugging next.

This is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS! It breaks my heart, and I will admit a strong bias, this story made me cry. What kind of society do we live in that does not support the disabled? This man, and the lifeguard, violated their civil rights. The Americans with Disability Act is supposed to protect them from the repugnant behavior of these city employees.

The city of Hazard has a population of about 5,000 people. All too often we wave our hand and say, this is a small town in Appalachia, you know what that's like. Quite frankly, I don't know what it's like to live there, and am thankful that I don't. These two men don't have a choice. They also have immutable characteristics that they were born with, and that includes their disability and sexuality. We all have to raise our voice to help these guys in Hazard, and also must work to end the misinformed Americans who denigrate and discriminate in the name of the bible.

The bible forbids eating pork and shellfish, as well as shaving, and you are also forbidden to wear material woven of two different kinds of material. Come on! We must stop this madness. In Galatians 5:14 it says “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  And that's how most people I know, and the majority of the GLBTQ community live. If only that were true in Hazard. 
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While researching this story I attempted to find an email address for Mr. Paul Collins. His law firm, Hollon and Collins, does not have a web site. I did find a web site for the city of Hazard, and there isn't a lot of information there. I emailed the mayor Mrs. Nan Gorman, as well as the city manager, and assistant city manager, to express my outrage. 2 of the 3 emails were rejected as the city website has not been kept up to date. The only email address that was correct was that of the assistant city manger. His email address is: paultownes@cityofhazard.com   
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