HAZARD, Ky. – An employee at a public swimming pool in eastern Kentucky was suspended for a week without pay after telling two disabled gay men to leave, city of Hazard officials said Saturday.
The suspended city employee Kim Haynes told investigators that the two men were engaged in an excessive display of affection June 10, and that he would have told any other couple to leave had he seen similar behavior. Haynes, however, also acknowledged he said “We don’t tolerate that kind of activity around here” and cited the Bible in an argument with Laura Quillen, a member of the social service group Mending Hearts, which was overseeing the group.
Quillen told investigators the men did nothing inappropriate.
According to a report released by city attorney Paul R. Collins, summing up the conflicting accounts, at least one witness saw the men “standing ‘man to man’ or ‘belly to belly’ in the pool, splashing each other with water and pushing each other under the water.”
The witness also said he “observed them hug each other on at least one occasion” and give each other a kiss, the report said.
Pearlman and Haynes were not at work on Saturday and could not be reached by the newspaper for comment by telephone.
Meanwhile, dozens of people rallied at the pool Saturday in support of the gay men.
“It’s time that people stood up for people. It’s just the right thing to do,” Marsha Morgan from Leslie County told WYMT-TV.
Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, said the men were discriminated against.
“There was not kissing, and there was nothing of that sort. One of them sat on the other’s knee and that was it,” said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation.
Palmer called Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman “a woman of integrity and class” for disciplining the employees.
“She has stated that all people are welcome at The Pavilion and has been receptive, positive, and helpful from the very beginning,” Palmer said.
The manager of the Hazard Pavilion also was reprimanded for unbecoming conduct, The Courier-Journal reported. Charlotte Pearlman used inappropriate and obscene language when declining comment to a television news crew, the city said.
The city also said new anti-discrimination signs will be posted at the pool, as well as signs warning against excessive public displays of affection.