Gay People Need Not Swim

Two disabled men were asked to leave a city pool

It was a hot day in Kentucky when two developmentally and intellectually disabled men visited a pool at the Pavilion in Hazard, a city-owned facility in the Appalachian Coalfields of Eastern, Kentucky. But before they could take a dip in this, one of the largest indoor recreation centers in the state, they were told that gay people weren’t allowed to swim there, reports the Kentucky Equality Federation.

According to the gay rights organization, the two men were admonished by maintenance for attempting to swim at the pool. The Pavilion staffers allegedly used the Bible as the reason for the discrimination, telling the men that because the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong, they shouldn’t be swimming in the public, tax payer-supported pool. The Pavilion is owned and operated by the city of Hazard.

The gay couple are members of Mending Hearts, an organization that supports people with disabilities. The group’s Executive Director Shirlyn Perkins knows the two men and issued a statement about the incident: “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, who 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.”

Fortunately, members of the community are outraged over the discrimination, and are planning to stage a protest at the town’s City Hall.

“This is completely outrageous,” says Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “The Pavilion is owned by the city of Hazard and paid for by our tax dollars. 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.”

Julia Oiler Spiegel, the outreach director for Kentucky Equality Federation’s Children of LGBTI Parents also charges that the facility discriminated against the two men in a way that’s not unlike segregation of years past. “Not only was this an irreprehensible act by the staff,” she says, “it was humiliating to these young men and their direct support staff. 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.”