Proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance Causes Controversy in Martinsburg

Jul 30, 2015

Martinsburg citizens wait in line to petition for or against the LGBT discrimination ordinance.
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Martinsburg City Council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in both housing and employment. The state of West Virginia does not provide these protections to the LGBT community although lawmakers have introduced bills for several years that would do so.

Because of the lack of support at the state level, members of Fairness West Virginia, an LGBT rights group, have spent the past year or so calling on cities to pass these protections. At the Martinsburg meeting Wednesday night, members of the community were heavily divided.

The Martinsburg City Council Chamber was packed Wednesday night. Martinsburg and other Eastern Panhandle citizens came out to either listen or speak regarding the chamber’s proposed non-discrimination draft ordinance.

If approved, the ordinance would prohibit any business or landlord in the city from discriminating against someone because they are gay, bi-sexual, or transgender.

Petitions lasted for two hours. The speakers were almost evenly divided with 21 in support and 24 against.

Republican Delegates John Overington and Michael Folk also spoke against the ordinance.

After deliberation, council members voted in favor of drafting the non-discrimination ordinance, but say they will take both sides’ concerns into account.

The draft ordinance will be made public in 30-60 days.