Morgantown council backs same-sex civil marriage

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Morgantown’s City Council has endorsed resolutions that ask the Legislature to legalize same-sex civil marriages in West Virginia and to prohibit employers and landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation.


Council members unanimously endorsed the resolutions presented by the Morgantown Human Rights Commission on Tuesday night. One council member did not attend the meeting.


One resolution asks lawmakers to approve marriage equality for gay couples, which would include health and pension benefits and tax treatment. The resolution says the city has a long history of opposing discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodation on bases such as race, religion, national origin, sex, and sexual orientation.


“The denial of equal marital rights — including recognition of same-sex domestic arrangements that amount to `everything but marriage’ — is nothing less than an unacceptable form of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans gender (LGBT) Americans,” the commission’s resolution states.


West Virginia doesn’t allow same-sex marriage or recognize those that occurred in other states.


The other resolution supports a bill introduced by Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, that would make it unlawful for employers and landlords to discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation.


While the council’s support doesn’t carry the weight of law, Fairness West Virginia chairperson Kelly Kimble said it is part of a growing tide.


“I just want to impress upon you how significant these resolutions are,” Kimble said. “Fairness is not only good for everybody, it’s also the right thing to do. I couldn’t be prouder to be a citizen of Morgantown.”


Council member Ron Bane said he was concerned that the marriage equity resolution would send the message that the council no longer represents the voice of many people who have long-held beliefs about the definition of marriage. He said the resolution’s focus solely on the legal aspect of marriage helped inform his vote, which he said was the toughest he’s faced on council.


“This council represents everybody,” Bane said. “It’s hard sometimes to sit in these chairs.”


Deputy Mayor Marti Shamberger said she was proud of council’s decision.


“I think we took a big step forward and I’m glad we did,” Shamberger said.


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