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Beckley council won’t vote on sexual orientation rule

BECKLEY, W.Va. — After an overwhelming number of complaints from the religious community, Beckley Common Council chose not to vote on a Human Rights Commission ordinance amendment that would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Councilman Ron Booker mentioned the request at council’s Oct. 28 meeting, and several other council members said they were in favor of the amendment.

However, after an outcry from a number of local churches, the item was never placed on Common Council’s agenda.

The Beckley Human Rights Commission was created by Common Council to “encourage and endeavor to bring about mutual understanding and respect,” and “to eliminate all discrimination in employment places of public accommodations and in the sale, purchase, lease, rental or financing of housing and other rental property.”

Robert Baker, chair of the Beckley Human Rights Commission, came to Tuesday’s meeting discuss the issue with council members.

He said according to the 2010 Census, there are over 100 gay or lesbian couples in Raleigh County, and 540 individuals in Beckley who identify as gay or lesbian, which he said accounts for 3 percent of the City of Beckley’s population.

“There’s a significant number of people involved in this who would be covered in an ordinance if we were to make that change.”

He said a number of other West Virginia cities, including Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown have adopted the new sexual orientation and gender identity amendments into their ordinances.

“For me, this is a civil rights issue…

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