Mayors call on Senate to take up bill expanding nondiscrimination law

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki is among a group of 12 mayors calling on West Virginia’s Senate leadership to take up Senate Bill 391, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the state’s nondiscrimination law.

Morgantown is one of 12 cities to pass laws barring such discrimination. Those cities represent about 199,000 residents, or about 11 percent of the state’s population according to a press release from Fairness West Virginia.

Along with Kawecki, Amy Goodwin (Charleston), Steve Williams (Huntington), Robert Rappold (Beckley), George Karos (Martinsburg), Jim Auxer (Shepherdstown), Scott Rogers (Charles Town), Wayne Bishop (Harpers Ferry), J.L. Campbell (Sutton), John Manchester (Lewisburg), Glen Elliot (Wheeling) and Melanie Dragan (Thurmond) have signed off on the letter, which was addressed to Senate President Mitch Carmichael.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, is the lead sponsor of the bill, which will die if not taken up by the judiciary committee by Wednesday, according to the press release.

“We are so encouraged by this show of support from our mayors throughout West Virginia who just believe this is the right thing to do,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia.

The letter notes that broadening nondiscrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity has not lessened religious freedoms.

It goes on to state that, economically, the change has “fostered an  inclusive and vibrant business environment,” and allowed these cities to market themselves to job creators as “modern, forward-looking communities that are open to all.”

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