FAIRMONT, W.Va. — No compromise is likely, but Mayor Thomas Mainella said he isn’t shutting the door on one over the ongoing Human Rights Commission ordinance debate.
“I think we would like that too, if not for the [West Virginia] Family Policy Council,” Mainella said Wednesday on Morgantown AM. “They’ve incited this entire controversy.”
The controversy goes something like this: the city of Fairmont decided to reactivate their decades-old and inactive Human Rights Commission with new language protecting for gender identity and sexual orientation. That change to the nearly 40-year-old original ordinance drew the ire of the West Virginia Family Policy Council, eventually leading to a campaign to repeal the ordinance that was adopted in September. When it came time to vote and hear from the public, a big turnout of citizens came forward to voice their displeasure with what was being called the “men in ladies rooms bill.”
“I don’t think it’s their objective to compromise because there mission is, they are an anti-gay marriage organization,” Mainella said.
Mainella said the “men in ladies room” chatter was nothing more than a misinformation campaign, but the first part of that campaign was successful. Keep Fairmont Safe, a local organization, helped put together a petition with enough signatures to force a repeal of the ordinance onto Fairmont City Council’s Dec. 12 agenda. That ordinance died without being seconded, prompting an automatic referendum scheduled for next November.
“It was going to go to the voters in November anyhow,” Mainella said. “I don’t think anybody on Council was going to change their mind and repeal the ordinance that we passed in September.”
He said by doing it this way, the vote proceeds without another contentious public hearing like the one that preceded Council’s eventual 7-2 vote in favor of Ordinance 1751 in September.
“There’s been enough divisiveness,” Mainella said. “We have respect for the opposition, for the other side. But we just figured, why go through another 80 speakers? Another four hour meeting?”
86 people spoke at the September 12 public hearing, with the majority speaking against the adoption of the ordinance. Mainella said even if a compromise could be found, it would still need to include protections in the ordinance for gender identity and sexual orientation.
“As long as that’s there, I don’t think the Family Policy Council will tolerate any compromise,” he said.
A referendum like this one is a new playing field for the Family Policy Council and pro-LGBTQ Fairness West Virginia. In the past, elections of individual council members in other cities that have adopted similar ordinances have become referendums in their own manner. This, Mainella said, is a different fight.
“I expect things in October and November to really ramp up as far as robocalls getting me kicked out of office and get this thing defeated,” he said. “It’s ground zero for the Family Policy Council.”
Mainella is up for re-election next November.