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The University of Kentucky College of Law and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights were proud to host the “Civil Rights Act Symposium” commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. The Kentucky Civil Rights Act remains to be one of the most significant pieces of legislation to be passed in the last 50 years. The event brought in nationally respected speakers, judges, lawyers and activists prominent in the civil rights arena.

Honorable Jenean Hampton, Lt. Governor of Kentucky, the first African American to hold statewide office in Kentucky’s history, recalled as a child watching the Civil Rights Movement spread.  She indicated that Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy remains as an inspiration to continue pursuing civil rights and voter participation across the state.

“To be standing here on the 50th anniversary of Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act is phenomenal to me. Really, I can’t tell you how much this law means to me…I stand here as Lt. Governor on the backs of a lot of people, and I recognize that,” Lt. Gov. Hampton said.

Attorney General of Kentucky, Honorable Andy Beshear, also spoke at the symposium. His speech focused on the importance of basic human rights and emphasized how diversity is beneficial to our state.  “I believe, as those who have come before me, that our strength lies in our differences. That we as a state become culturally and economically richer as we become more diverse,” he said.

Keynote speaker Honorable Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights and former Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of North Carolina, delivered a powerful speech on how the Civil Rights Movement is something that must be pursued daily. “Friends, today we celebrate, but we should not be content. We’ve made considerable gains in the fight for social justice and equality, but the truthful matter of the fight is that we are only beginning.”

Several discussions occurred throughout the day. One featured topic was on the role of law schools to encourage law students to pursue the practice and advancement of civil rights law. In this segment, the deans of Kentucky’s three law schools discussed which policies, programs and practices where in place to expose students to the challenges and rewards of civil rights law.

Another discussion focused on how state and local agencies can help achieve greater protections for LGBT and immigrant communities, encourage greater integration of neighborhoods, and balance freedom of speech and religion in relation to civil rights.    

The College of Law was honored to have the Kentucky School for the Deaf’s Signing Choir perform at the symposium. Also present were students from Fayette County Public School’s Carter G. Woodson Academy, Covington Holmes High School, Woodford County High School and Newport Middle School, who participated in the discussions led by our panelists. We had an outstanding turnout and were greatly inspired by all of our guest speakers.