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Pride Parade: Covington embraces diversity

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COVINGTON, Ky. - Declaring that inclusivity and diversity are hallmarks of Northern Kentucky’s largest city, City of Covington officials are gearing up to participate in Sunday’s NKY Pride Parade.
 
The parade - whose theme is “Y’all Means All!: The Future is Bright” - will be led by Mayor Joe Meyer and Police Chief Rob Nader, riding in a golf cart. Further back will be a fire engine from the Covington Fire Department, along with department heads and others from City Hall carrying a banner.
 
“We will be well-represented, and that’s not by accident,” said Covington City Manager David Johnston, who recently encouraged employees at City Hall to attend. “The theme of the event is inclusivity, and that’s one of this City’s core beliefs.”
 
Covington was one of the first cities in the state - and remains the only city in Northern Kentucky - to codify its commitment to diversity. Back in 2003, the Covington City Commission passed a Human Rights Ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, prohibiting discrimination within the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, resort and amusement.
 
Only nine cities in the Commonwealth have those protections.
 
“We’re extremely proud that Covington embraces diversity and opportunity, both in practice and as a matter of law,” Mayor Meyer said. “We don’t care what your ethnic background is, how old you are, what your sexual orientation is and how you identify your gender. We want you to live in our City, work here, eat at our restaurants and be part of our community.”
 
According to a 2015 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, Kentucky’s workforce is home to 80,000 LGBT workers. The institute cites the 2010 census in saying that Covington ranks 1st in the state and 206th in the country in same-sex couples per 1,000 households.
 
“Given numbers like these, why in the world would a city limit itself and risk driving talented people away?” the Mayor asked. “As a city, you have to make it clear that you won’t permit a hostile environment to exist.”
 
Besides a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, Covington’s Human Rights Ordinance also prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability, age, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, familial status, marital and/or parental status and place of birth. These protections are necessary, the ordinance states, “to protect an individual’s personal dignity and insure freedom from humiliation; to make available to the city full productive capacities; to secure the city against strife and unrest which would menace its democratic institutions; and to preserve the public safety, health, and general welfare.”
 
The ordinance was written by current Assistant City ManagerFrank Warnock, who at the time was an attorney hired from outside to process and write the ordinance. He is serving as a consultant on the issue for the City of Park Hills, which is considering a similar ordinance.
 
Warnock said the issue inspired a lot of emotional response on both sides back in 2003, and the City was methodical in holding public hearings and seeking feedback from many groups, including the business community, neighborhoods, and religious leaders. “We were inclusive in the process of developing Covington’s Human Rights Ordinance,” Warnock said. “It was important to listen to all perspectives and try to understand differing views.”
 
When the ordinance passed on a 5-0 vote, the audience in the Commission chambers gave a standing ovation, according to news reports.
 
“It was a challenge to put that ordinance together, but I’m proud that Covington did this some 15 years ago and became a leader,” Warnock said. “The ordinance helped put Covington on the map. It is a reflection of a thoughtful and welcoming community.”
 
Since then Covington has taken other steps to support the LGBTQA community, including extending health benefits to same-sex partners of City employees.
 
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This is the ninth year for the Pride Festival and the second year for the parade.
 
It starts at 1 p.m. Sunday at Covington Landing. It will travel south on Madison Avenue, west on Seventh Street, north on Russell Street and west on Sixth Street, ending in Goebel Park. There it will kick off NKY PrideFest, which organizer Northern Kentucky Fairness is billing as a “family friendly party in the park,” featuring a kid-zone presented by the Kenton County Public Library, live performances, vendors and more.
 
To learn more about the weekend’s events, click HERE.
 
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