Update: Non-discrimination policy still in limbo

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va (WTAP): A stalled topic discussed at Parkersburg City Council is still getting a lot of reaction from the community.

A non-discrimination ordinance was first introduced at council in March. In its original form, it meant to recognize equal opportunity in areas like employment, housing and public accommodations for all persons without regard to gender identity, sexual orientation and similar factors.

So many people came to that meeting, protocol about how many people can fit inside council chambers had to be addressed afterwards. Currently, the ordinance is in limbo, sitting in a committee.

"There are generational differences in support and non-support for the ordinance. I think what we'll find is that younger people have more or less grown up with more diversity in their life and are a little more open-minded than someone my age or older might be," said Jeff Fox, Parkersburg City councilman.

It could remain there indefinitely. It would take a majority vote by council or an action by chairman Mike Reynolds to bring it back up.

Parkersburg City Council's Tuesday meeting includes the first reading of a non-discrimination policy.

Some church groups are planning to protest it, while some council members say they want to clear up confusion about what the ordinance actually implies.

In its current form, it recognizes equal opportunity in the areas of employment, housing accommodations and public accommodations for all persons without regard to gender identity, sexual orientation and other simliar factors.

The public accommodations portion is what's troubling some people. Some think this applies to the transgender bathroom issue, similar to North Carolina's case.

Council is hoping to clear up this confusion.

"Presently, transgender people in West Virginia and all throughout the country are permitted to go in the bathroom of their choice. The bill in North Carolina prohibited that and made them go based on their birth certificate. This {ordinance} does not allow men to go into women's restrooms anymore than it does now," said John Reed, District 7 councilman.

"God tells us that we're all sinners so we're all on the same level field, but as far as having to endorse and embrace a particular lifestyle and force us to actually accommodate that, we would be against that. I think it actually promotes divisiveness," said Daniel Stevens, the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Parkersburg.

Eleven other cities in West Virginia have passed non-discrimination policies.

Parkersburg residents met with a state-wide civil rights group about making the city more inclusive.

Fairness West Virginia spoke with the community about passing a non-discrimination ordinance to protect the rights of the LGBT community.

The civil rights organization says as of now, sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected in housing and employment.

Without these protections, Fairness West Virginia says the city is losing young, talented people who move to more inclusive areas.

Nineteen states have non-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation, and Fairness West Virginia says the Mountain State could become the twentieth, if more cities pass these ordinances.

"It's not just about protecting your residents, your citizens immediately," said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. "It's also the long term game of ultimately getting the state to act and providing those protections for everyone."

Multiple city councilmen and women attended Monday's meeting, including District Four's Councilwoman Kim Coram.

She says she has begun legislation to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance, and is waiting on signatures to introduce it to council.

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