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Hearing Set for LGBT Ordinance in Wheeling

Public asked to offer ideas

Photo by Alec Berry Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott, left, and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman listen to discussion during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

WHEELING — Later this month it will be Wheeling residents’ turn to speak about proposed protections in city code for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

Mayor Glenn Elliott announced Tuesday during Wheeling City Council’s meeting that a public hearing on the ordinance will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at Wheeling Park’s White Palace Ballroom.

The venue will accommodate a possibly large crowd, as the mayor said he wants to encourage all interested in the matter to attend.

Elliott emphasized no final decision on the ordinance will occur at the hearing.

“I have no way to predict how many people are going to come, but I can easily foresee a number of people coming which would exceed the capacity for (council chambers),” Elliott said. “In the event there is a big demand and people do come, I want to make sure we have the capacity.”

The amended ordinance would make it unlawful within city limits to terminate or refuse employment to someone, or deny housing to them, based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Religious institutions and private clubs would be exempt.

The final LGBT ordinance draft will be available for public review beginning today, according to Elliott.

He said the city is not required to hold a public hearing on the issue, but said because the matter has attracted controversy he believes it’s best to “go above and beyond” the normal procedure. The thought is for residents to feel included in the process, as Wheeling City Council has been accused by the conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia of carrying out this matter in secret.

At an Aug. 16 city council meeting, six residents spoke against LGBT protections, claiming they are unnecessary and a means to enact special privileges. Since then, multiple residents have approached council in support of the ordinance, with area activists holding a rally on Aug. 31 to advocate for the legislation.

In September and October, council met with Wheeling’s Human Rights Commission for public work sessions to discuss details of the proposed ordinance.

“We want people to know that they are going to be heard, and we’re going to consider their support and/or concern for this ordinance in advance of our actual making a decision on the ordinance itself,” Elliott said. “We’re going to have this hearing, and it could convince some council members to oppose it, or it could convince some council members to support it.”

In other business, council approved a $146,700 sanitary sewer line replacement along Flynn Avenue near Wheeling Hospital. Public Works Director Russell Jebbia said replacement of the line became a priority as the hospital builds its new $22 million continuous care unit.

Jebbia said he expects work to begin by December.

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