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Buckhannon 5th W.Va. city to pass LGBT protections

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Buckhannon has become the fifth West Virginia city to extend housing and employment nondiscrimination to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The shift comes shortly after state legislators stalled on a House bill that would have added sexual orientation to the protected categories in the West Virginia's Human Rights Act.

Dr. Coy Flowers, president of Fairness West Virginia, said the battle for LGBT protections will be won city-by-city, until statewide laws are passed and enforced.

"I think that you'll see, between now and the coming [legislative] session, city after city publicly proclaiming support for LGBT West Virginians," Flowers said.

On Thursday, Buckhannon joined Charleston, Morgantown, Lewisburg and Harpers Ferry in adding sexual orientation to the protected categories. Currently, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people can be fired or denied housing based on their sexual orientation, Flowers said.

Buckhannon's resolution aims to throw support behind enacting statewide protections and also would show legislators that LGBT people deserve a voice, Mayor Kenny Davidson said.

No one spoke out in opposition to the resolution on its first reading and passage, he said.

"The council here agreed that we should not discriminate against anyone," Davidson said. "People have their own feelings about sexual orientation, but there are still some in our society that have strong feelings about race, gender and ethnic backgrounds."

Despite a majority of Americans supporting gay rights nationally, little support has been shown for gay people in West Virginia, Davidson said.

In the most recent legislative session, Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, introduced the bill to add sexual orientation to the protected categories in the Human Rights Act. Skinner later asked the House not to pursue the legislation, fearing that the only way it could pass is if it were watered-down to the point of ineffectiveness.

Skinner said a majority of West Virginians supported the bill but suggested that there are portions of the state where intolerance remains high.

Flowers said his organization will continue to show that LGBT West Virginians are average, hardworking members of the state who want to live here without fear.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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