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SOGI ordinance is necessary

By Staff | Feb 12, 2016

My home town is Charles Town. Suffice it to say, I found it unsettling that we, as a community, had even the slightest bit of reservation about the recent push for non discrimination. In all actuality, we’re way overdue.

The discussion surrounding the Non Discrimination ordinance has given light to a few “concerns” such as same sex marriage; the effects on local business; and what I will call the “Bathroom Predator Myth”

Because the State Legislature has yet add sexual orientation and gender identity to the WV Human Rights Act, it is still legal in our state to be fired, evicted, or denied a hotel room just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Regardless of our background, beliefs or faith structure, we should all agree that bigotry, in any form, should not be tolerated in a state that says in its very creed. Furthermore, denying anyone, the pursuit of employment, housing and basic human necessities for any reason, isn’t just unconstitutional – it’s inhumane.

Sixty-eight percent of West Virginians agree that discrimination against the LGBTQ community is wrong and should be prohibited. From 2007 to date, seven cities and towns in West Virginia have passed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the latest of which is the town of Lewisburg.

A nondiscrimination ordinance extends protections in employment, housing and public accommodations by adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” to the existing list of protected classes (these would typically include: race, gender, socioeconomic status and disability).

Same sex marriage has already been ruled legal by the Supreme Court. We’re past that.

What a localized ordinance would do is implement important safeguards for the LGBTQ community living in states that lack explicit statewide protections.

Fewer than a third of all U.S. states have laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and only a handful prohibit discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or expression. According to LGBT legal advocates, GLAD, there are no federal protections for LGBT civil rights.

What the nondiscrimination ordinance DOES do

– Expands the city’s current nondiscrimination policy to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

– Leaves in place protections prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status

– Provides basic discrimination protections to LGBT city/town residents, not special or additional rights

– Provides a legal cause of action to individuals who believe they have been discrimination against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity

– Provides a means for cities and towns that want to protect their LGBT populations from discrimination in the absence of state and federal protections

– Defines sexual orientation as “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality” which means people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight are protected from discrimination. Everyone has a sexual orientation.

What the nondiscrimination ordinance DOES NOT do

– Has no impact on the city’s budget

– Does not require the town (or its people) to provide legal defense or prosecution

– Does not force pastors or religious officials to marry same-sex couples. (No one can do that, by the way. That’s for their discretion- gay, straight, or otherwise.)

– and this certainly does not permit sexual predators into women’s restrooms or locker rooms

West Virginia is continuing to strive for sustainable economic growth. We are struggling throughout the state, and it is no exaggeration to say that we have families communities struggling with poverty.

The Eastern Panhandle, relies on it’s working families, and businesses to thrive. I assure you, that being on the side of progress will not, in any, way impede on this pursuit.

You should know that cities and towns that promote diversity attract tourism. Inclusive cities and towns attract and retain the best and brightest employees. Inclusivity says to individuals and families looking to relocate that everyone is welcome. Also worth mentioning: 96 percent of Fortune 500 companies have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination employment policies. Progressive companies, inclusive companies, make money.

Regarding the “Bathroom Predator Myth” And yes, I will call this a myth. Anti-LGBT groups have claim that nondiscrimination ordinances pose a risk to women and children.

The reality is that, yes, sexual assault is real. Bathrooms and locker rooms do have high instances of violence. But then, so does your home by someone you’ve known. There are zero instances of sexual assault as a direct result of a nondiscrimination ordinance. There are zero documented cases of sexual predators abusing nondiscrimination ordinances to gain access to women’s restrooms and assault women and children.

In West Virginia, of the 6 (now 7) cities and towns that have passed nondiscrimination ordinances since 2007, again, they report zero instances of sexual assault as a result of the ordinances.

Transgender people are not predators. They are human beings and deserve to be treated as such regardless if you can understand or empathize with the process of transition.

I implore you to see past what can only be described as a lack of awareness.

I am certain, that not a single individual regardless of your faith, party affiliation, or background can, in good conscience, state they feel that any one manshould be denied shelter or employment based on their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Support progress. Support equality. Support love. And stand for the inclusive rights of our community.

Sammi Brown:

Jefferson County resident