Keyser becomes 14th WV city to adopt local LGBTQ fairness law

KEYSER, West Virginia — Members of the Keyser City Council voted Wednesday night to become the 14th city in West Virginia to adopt a local fairness law.

Local fairness laws are nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBTQ residents from discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces. Keyser was the first municipality to adopt a local fairness law in 2021.

“This is a huge win for the people of Keyser,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “Keyser’s leaders stepped up tonight to protect their LGBTQ friends and neighbors, but more than that, they’re showing the world how accepting their community is.”

A little less than 5,000 people live in the city of Keyser. It is the fifth city in the Eastern Panhandle to adopt these protections, joining Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg and Shepherdstown.”

A map of all of the municipalities in West Virginia that have adopt a local fairness law. These municipalities include Huntington, Charleston, Thurmond, Beckley, Lewisburg, Athens, Wheeling, Morgantown, Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, Charles Town and now Keyser.

“Our state still has no statewide law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination,” Schneider said. “That means landlords can evict gay tenants and businesses can refuse to serve them with no consequences. Until our leaders pass the Fairness Act, it’s up to cities like Keyser to protect their community.”

The Fairness Act is a bipartisan proposal to ensure all LGBTQ people across the state, no matter their zip code, are protected from discrimination. Even with the new protections in Keyser, only a little more than 200,000 people live somewhere with these protections.

“In times like this, we need all of our leaders to stand up for what’s right,” Schneider said. “I hope that our U.S. Senators, Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, see the growing consensus among West Virginians as a sign they should support the Equality Act at the federal level. This proposal, which mirrors the Fairness Act, would provide enduring protections for LGBTQ people across the country. We need Sens. Manchin and Capito to help us finish the work to ensure all Mountaineers can live free from discrimination.”

The ordinance adopted Wednesday is the city’s first nondiscrimination ordinance to guard against discrimination for any class of people. The ordinance will protect people regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, marital status, familial status and veteran status.

Curtis Westfall, a 21-year-old gay man, knows just how accepting Keyser is. He was born and raised there. He’s always been involved in the community and was even elected Homecoming King when he was a high school student.

“I wanted my city to adopt this ordinance because the town I grew up in and love so much has always made me feel included and welcome, and I’m so proud the rest of the world can see that now,” Westfall said.

If any community member is interested in bringing a local fairness law to their community, contact Fairness by emailing info@fairnessw.org to get started.

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Fairness West Virginia is the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender West Virginians. Our mission is to ensure LGBTQ people can be open, honest and safe at home, at work, and in the community. We are open to everyone who believes in fundamental fairness.

Please direct questions to Jake Jarvis, communications manager, at jake@fairnesswv.org.