Morgantown became West Virginia’s eleventh city to protect its LGBTQ residents from discrimination Tuesday, Oct. 17 as city council unanimously updated their municipal nondiscrimination ordinance.

The changes will bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations.

Tuesday marked the third public hearing on this measure. On each occasion, the overwhelming majority of speakers favored expanding protections.

Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider told council members that local ordinances are currently the only means local communities have for protecting their LGBTQ residents. There are no such protections in West Virginia state law or at the federal level.

“This decision means that four out of the five largest cities in the state are now inclusive communities that ensure all residents may live and work free from discrimination,” Schneider said. “This sends a strong message to the state Legislature that West Virginia is more than ready to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination law.”

West Virginia led the nation in 2016 for the number of municipal nondiscrimination ordinances adopted.  Charles Town, Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, Wheeling, and Lewisburg all adopted LGBTQ legal protections last year.

Schneider warned that the fight is far from over, however.

Fairness West Virginia expects opponents of equality in the state Legislature to again push legislation targeting the LGBTQ community.

“We will do our part to ensure West Virginia keeps marching forward, not backward,” Schneider said. “We will continue to offer support and guidance to those looking to make their communities more inclusive.”