City council to consider nondiscrimination ordinance Thursday

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BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council will consider an ordinance that would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations, including housing, employment and places of business, at its first meeting of 2019 Thursday.

Ordinance 434 – listed as the City of Buckhannon’s proposed nondiscrimination on the agenda for the Jan. 3 meeting – is slated to be taken up for a first reading at the 7 p.m. meeting in city hall.

In October 2018, Andrew Schneider, the executive director of Fairness West Virginia, a group that lobbies for fair treatment and basic civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender West Virginians, visited council to discuss nondiscrimination ordinances adopted by municipalities across the state.

At the time, Schneider said a city ordinance designed to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination based on sexuality was necessary because there are no state or federal laws in place that specifically accomplish that.

On Monday, mayor David McCauley said the ordinance won’t be written only to protect LGBTQ people but will cover much broader terrain.

“It’s going to be focused on nondiscrimination in housing, employment and virtually every other element [of public life] that people of color, people of varying ethnicities, ages, people that are handicapped, familial status, religion and in general, all of the protections that are accorded to those groups will be accorded to all people,” McCauley said. “The ordinance isn’t going to be confined or apply exclusively to that group. It will be a reiteration that we want to be inclusive of all people.

“The vast majority of protected (from discrimination) class statuses are already mandated by state law,” he added, “but there are only partial protections accorded to people based on orientation.”

McCauley said if the first reading of the ordinance passes Thursday, a second and final reading would be scheduled for council’s meeting Jan. 17.

“Each person on council will have to establish themselves as to what they think about it,” McCauley said when My Buckhannon asked how he believed the ordinance would fare. “At the end of the day, I have to be able to look myself in the mirror, and I don’t see sexual orientation as being any different from people of color, religion, gender, ethnicity, age or any other protected status. It just makes us more fully inclusive, and as everyone has heard me say for years, our city needs to be competent, inclusive, transparent and efficient.”