by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
A Lesbian couple who were ordered to leave a Kentucky park while taking maternity photos say their sexual orientation was the reason.
The two women, Cheri Chenault and Destiny Keith, were being photographed on July 7 in a privately owned section of E.C. Million Memorial Park in Richmond, a city of just over 30,000. When the couple kissed for a photo, a park gatekeeper confronted the couple and the photographer, Jessica Miller-Poole, who was accompanied by her husband. They were told to leave the park grounds because they were acting inappropriately.
'They had such a small kiss, such a peck of a kiss, that I wasn't even able to capture a picture of it,' said Miller-Poole.
'I called my mom crying and my girlfriend Destiny was upset too,' Chenault said. 'She called her mom, too, and it was a big mess. It took all I had to keep my cool because I just thought it was messed up that [the official] could literally kick us out of the park.'
Chenault also said that she and Keith had been called 'faggots' earlier that day, although not while at the park.
The photographer's husband asked the park official why he had asked them to leave.
'He talked to the man and said that if it was because they were two women, that he wanted to know,' Miller-Poole told the Richmond Register, the local paper. She quoted the official as saying 'those type of people' were not welcome in the park.
'My husband ended up getting very angry and had to walk away,' added Miller-Poole.
'I never understood why people make such a big deal about being treated differently until I was actually in the middle of it and witnessed it firsthand,' Miller-Poole told the Register. 'It really bothered me and upset me to witness someone be so cruel.'
Miller-Poole went on to tell the paper that because she conducts photo-shoots regularly at the park, she asked the man if she was banned from the park permanently or just with same-sex couples as clients.
'The man said, 'If you come back and bring those type of people, you will be removed from the park,' said Miller-Poole.
In recent years, some discriminatory incidents against LGBT people in Kentucky have attracted national attention. While LGBT people are protected under Kentucky hate-crime laws, they are not protected under the state's non-discrimination laws.
'It is legal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation here in Richmond,' said city Human Rights Commission chair Sandra Anez-Powell. 'They can be kicked out of public places, fired from their jobs, and denied housing, a right that heterosexual people like me enjoy. The local Human Rights Commission has fought for the last four years to protect the rights of every human being, but the Richmond city commissioners have chosen to table this issue. The last administration did the same.'
'This young couple's plight is a perfect elucidation of the need for a local fairness ordinance in Richmond,' said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a Louisville, Kentucky-based organization dedicated to equal rights.
'In truth, we need an anti-discrimination [law] that will cover the whole Commonwealth, but until that law passes, local fairness ordinances in Richmond, Berea, and other cities around the state are necessary.'
Park management declined to comment on the incident when contacted by the Register.
Chenault and Keith are expecting a baby boy on September 29.
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