FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A supplemental petition that could force a referendum against an ordinance adopting a Human Rights Commission in Fairmont has enough signatures to force the city council to vote on the ordinance for a third time next month.
“If the council fails to repeal the referred ordinance within 30 days after the petition was finally determined sufficient, it shall submit the referred ordinance to the voters of the city,” City Manager Robin Gomez said.
City Council will vote on Ordinance 1751, essentially an updated version of Ordinance 482, at their Dec. 12 meeting. Ordinance 1751 repealed Ordinance 482 and re-established a Human Rights Commission with protective language to include the LGBTQ community. If City Council, which adopted Ordinance 1751 in September by a 7-2 vote, chooses to uphold their previous decision, the future of the Human Rights Commission would be placed in the hands of the voters of Fairmont.
“Then it’s repealed and it is gone, and then we are back to Ordinance 482,” Gomez said.
That vote will be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote, held during the next municipal election Nov. 8, 2018. The petition for repeal was championed by a local organization, Keep Fairmont Safe. They were in turn supported by the state-wide West Virginia Family Policy Council, an organization that describes Ordinance 1751 as the “Men in Ladies’ Room” ordinance.
“They are still incorrect,” Gomez said. “Unfortunately, they are still falsely stating comments that this has to do with bathrooms or anything like that. That’s very inappropriate on their part to do so.”
Gomez criticized the organization, which was extremely vocal and active in turning out opposition to the ordinance during the September city council meeting that saw more than 80 public speakers in attendance.
“The Family Policy Council of West Virginia, again, continues to spread fear, false information, and just disturbing information that this has something to do with bathrooms,” Gomez said.
He noted that the word ‘bathroom’ never once appears in the ordinance — calling this a scare tactic by the Family Policy Council.
“They should be focusing on much more positive components about life in general, but they chose to harbor and scare people and intimidate. Very sad on their part that they continue to do that.”
The initial petition was rejected late last month, as the City Clerk ruled 785 signatures invalid. That left Keep Fairmont Safe 304 signatures short of the magic number: 1,979 valid signatures. The supplemental petition, submitted late last week, crossed the threshold with little room to spare, reportedly including 2,008 valid signatures.
Allen Whitt, director of the WV Family Policy Council, has also said his organization is interested in attempting to petition for recall all seven city councilors who voted for Ordinance 1751.