BECKLEY, W.Va. — With a final vote on Beckley’s non-discrimination ordinance looming, Common Council member Frank Williams has resigned as chairman of the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Mayor Robert Rappold confirmed the resignation Friday in an interview with the Register-Herald newspaper, saying Williams gave notice of his decision in a letter to the mayor’s office, dated Jan.11. Passage of the non-discrimination proposal is expected, following a second vote on the matter Jan. 22.
At the regular public session on Jan. 8., Beckley City Attorney William File presented the first reading of the ordinance, which would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes within the city limits. The measure, which was drafted in consultation with Human Rights Commission attorney Robert Dunlap, was approved by a 4-3 vote, with Williams among those voting against it.
If passed into law after the second reading, the new ordinance would exempt churches and faith-based non-profit groups, and religious leaders would not be required to perform ceremonies that are not in accordance with their faith.
The language of the proposal closely resembles that of similar anti-discrimination ordinances adopted in other West Virginia municipalities, including Charleston, Wheeling, Huntington, Lewisburg, Morgantown and Martinsburg. No current federal or West Virginia code recognizes sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class.
The upcoming Common Council session will be held at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, to accommodate the expected large public turnout.