BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) A critical vote is scheduled for Wednesday evening on a measure that could pave the way for the LGBT community to becoming a protected class in Beckley.
The city’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) is scheduled to vote after 5 p.m. on an ordinance that would protect the LGBT community from housing and employment discrimination.
Ahead of the vote, WVVA News hit the streets to find out how people in Beckley felt on the issue.
“Times have changed. West Virginia and some of these more rural places are a little bit backwards when it comes to the way society is and I think we should do more to protect these individuals,” said Randall Stover of Bolt.
Others were ambivalent over the issue. “To each his own, just leave me alone,” said Charles Tweedie in Beckley.
Some of the main opposition to an LGBT ordinance in recent days has come from some churches, pastors who have said the issue should be decided by the state legislature.
WVVA News reached out to several churches that opposed the ordinance when it was first considered in 2014, the only response was from Pastor Sam Green at the Bible Baptist Church in Crab Orchard.
“This morning I was asked if I would care to share an opinion on the proposed city ordinance to guarantee rights to the LGBTQ community. First, I wanted to say that I do not believe this is a decision that should be made by a city council. The burden that has been placed on them is unfair. It should go to the state legislature and then go through the democratic process and allow the people that it will be effecting to make an educated decision,” said Pastor Green.
He went on “as for what God’s Word has to say on this complicated issue; The book of Proverbs says in 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. I believe it is imperative that we show mercy to all people, that includes those that we do not agree with how they choose to live their lives. We show mercy that we might share the truth. The truth according to God’s Word, not my opinion or my feelings. Romans 1:21-28 shows us plainly what our opinion is towards those that live this lifestyle. As Christians we are to show love for the purpose that we may share Christ. Know that I am praying for all involved, these are complicated times and more than anything we need the mind of Jesus.”
Human Rights Commission member Robert Dunlap, who helped draft the language, responded Wednesday to what he believes are misconceptions regarding the ordinance.
“The state government in Charleston declined to take up this issue on a statewide basis. They said, county by county, city by city, you need to address this yourself. Charleston, Huntington, Lewisburg, Morgantown, Fairmont — all progressive cities that passed it. Beckley is going to be one of those cities that has the intellect to see that this does not change the way you worship, the things you do. It just protects rights for a narrow group of citizens who currently are not being protected.”
At this point, the Mayor, Councilmember-at-Large Sherrie Hunter, Councilman Tom Sopher, and Councilmember-at-Large Tim Berry have come out in support of the ordinance. The remaining five are still undecided (Councilmembers Kevin Price, Frank Williams, Janine Bullock, and Ann Worley).
It is those five Dunlap hopes will not be swayed by what he called a campaign of misinformation.
“I just read a report from an uninformed person who says the LGBT community has the same rights as everyone else. It’s just a lie. Because they’re not a protected class.”
Click the following link to see the full text of the ordinance: Proposed-Ord-for-HRC-Consideration