WHITESBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - The Letcher County Fiscal Court ignited heated debate this week when county leaders decided to explore the possibility of preventing people from using county bathrooms that do not match the genders on their birth certificates.
Friday's special fiscal court meeting was focused on the county budget, but many who attended the open meeting had other concerns.
"Transgender people are part of this community, and we should be erecting laws that protect their civil liberties, not laws that erode them," Eric Dixon told court members.
The court unanimously voted earlier this week to see if they could exempt the county from any future federal regulation protecting the right of transgender people to use public restrooms in line with their gender identities.
First District Magistrate Bobby Howard raised the issue, saying several of his constituents have been asking him questions.
"I just wish they was separated here, and everybody's equal under God's eyes," Howard said. "Everybody's equal, but I think just a line ought to be drew between the bathrooms is what I think."
While Letcher County continues to deal with a difficult financial situation, many who spoke at Friday's meeting expressed concern that a county bathroom law would have a negative impact on the local economy.
"People will not come here if they think that Letcher County is not an inclusive and supportive, loving, healing community, because we are that and we want to portray that," said Tanya Turner.
Howard says he would be in favor of separate bathrooms for transgender people if it were not for the expense.
Others say the issue is absurd and never should have been brought up in the first place.
"I think we just have a lot more concerns in this community than who's going to what bathroom," said Lillian Prosperino.
Fiscal court members say they are waiting on the county attorney to provide guidance on the issue.