It’s 2 A.M. on a Thursday night, and I’m at Nowhere (1133 Bardstown Rd. Tel: 502451-0466. www.nowherelouisville.com) in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood. It’s ironic, though, because “Nowhere” feels decidedly “somewhere”—particularly in today’s gay landscape. I’m struck by the LGBT diversity: genders and sexual identities, along with race and age, seem to have fallen by the wayside. I wonder if it may be my Bourbon-colored glasses that are tinting my impression of Derby City. Cocktails flow freely around nearly every corner, and Bourbon culture is deeply embedded in the city’s roots. But so are equal rights and corporate citizenship, which have positioned Louisville as a go-to destination with Southern charm and progressive values.
Named after France’s Louis XVI for his support of the fledgling US during the Revolutionary War, Louisville has been ahead of the curve since its founding in 1778. It was the nation’s first city to introduce the secret ballot to deter voter fraud, served as an important military hub for the Union Army during the Civil War, and was Kentucky’s first state to implement zoning laws to strategically shape urban growth. Today, Louisville is the state’s only city to achieve a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s municipal equality index that rates LGBT laws, policies, and services.
Much of the recent momentum stems from Mayor Greg Fischer, whose stalwart support of the LGBT community has rippled through Louisville’s residents. “A compassionate city is an inclusive, diverse, and tolerant city—period. You don’t turn people away; you embrace the diversity,” says Mayor Fischer, who has held the position since 2011. “We’re proud of our 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index for the second year in a row, because we know that to maintain our forward momentum as a city, we need to work to ensure that everyone—everyone!—has the ability to reach their full human potential.”