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Rotary hears anti-discrimination presentation

By Staff | Jan 15, 2016

The Shepherdstown Rotary welcomed Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, to their podium Tuesday morning. Schneider shared information regarding Fairness West Virginia’s main goals that include ending discrimination, advancing transgender rights, increasing visibility of discrimination issues and protecting the families of same sex couples.

The topic of an anti-discrimination law was the focus of the discussion as Schneider shared that although Fairness West Virginia was successful in helping bring about marriage equality in West Virginia, they still have more civil rights work to do.

“Marriage equality was to be the icing on the cake,” Schneider said. “But the cake has never been baked,” he continued when referencing the lack of anti-discrimination laws specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity.

He explained that Fairness West Virginia has a strategy in place to enter small communities and get them to pass the anti-discrimination ordinance that the state of West Virginia has yet to adopt. Currently there are six towns that have adopted the ordinances, he said, including Harpers Ferry. Currently Martinsburg and Charles Town are both in the process, he said.

“It’s happening because it’s the right thing to do,” Schneider said.

He explained that he believes that businesses will not come in to West Virginia because the state does not have this revised anti-discrimination code in place.

“Many businesses have the non-discrimination policy,” Schneider said, “and they are looking for places that have those ordinances in place.”

“It makes West Virginia more business friendly,” he contended.

Schneider refuted concerns that have arisen from opponents of the ordinance, saying that the “bathroom predator” concern is simply a myth. The concerns revolve around the idea that a male predator may enter a female restroom to do harm but claim protection under the transgender ordinance.

“Nineteen states with these laws have no records of anyone being arrested,” Schneider said, with regard to the bathroom concern.

Those concerns are only one of many from opposition forces to the ordinances. Others include the potential for loss of free speech by pastors or others who voice views opposite to the ordinance-views based on their belief systems. Opponents also see the ordinances as an open case in courts against termination from jobs for legitimate reasons falling on the “discrimination” side of the law which is nearly impossible to prove.

Nathan Nicholson, who spoke against such an ordinance in Charles Town last week, said that it puts businesses at a loss for dealing with problem employees who will simply use the law as an excuse to sue the business for termination.

Schneider referred to opponents of the anti-discrimination proposals as “groups who want to hold on to the old order.”

“They are making the loudest noise to hold on to old traditions,” Schneider said. But, he continued, the times are changed and these old “traditions” must go.

The Shepherdstown Council announced at its Tuesday meeting that the first reading of an anti-discrimination ordinance, likely the same or similar to the one before the Charles Town Council, will take place at their next meeting.