A tiny town in West Virginia made a big statement this week when it voted to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination.
All five residents of Thurmond, West Virginia, voted Monday to enact a new town ordinance extending discrimination prohibitions on employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT individuals. A statewide non-discrimination measure already in place doesn't offer LGBT protections.
Tighe Bullock, a member of Thurmond's council, told The Huffington Post that some residents had questions about the need for a ban on employment discrimination, since the town has no employers. Residents debated the measure for three months and reached a unanimous consensus on Monday. Bullock said he hopes the success can be a model for others.
"If the smallest city can pass it and come together unanimously and be of one mind about something, then I don't think it's too hard that other people can come together and provide protections that should be provided on a statewide level," Bullock said."We don't have to agree or disagree on necessarily what marriage is or anything like that. This bill is about not being able to fire people based on their gender and sexual orientation. And I think almost everyone should be able to agree on something like that."
Nearby Beckley tabled a similar non-discrimination measure late last year after vocal opposition.
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the advocacy group Fairness West Virginia, said the ordinance in Thurmond, as well as similar protections in Charleston and other communities in the state, show there's a "movement afoot" toward a "critical mass" for a statewide measure.
A more inclusive state non-discrimination ordinance, Schneider said, would encourage businesses with diverse employees to locate in West Virginia and would allow the state to retain its "best and brightest."
For Bullock, voting for Thurmond's ordinance was simply a matter of living up to West Virginia's ideals.
"Our state motto in Latin is 'Montani semper liberi,' which means 'Mountaineers are always free,'" Bullock said. "I think that passing this ordinance is living up to that ideal that all West Virginians are free and we're free from discrimination. We're free from fear of being fired for our gender or our sexual orientation."