Morgantown council passes first reading of conversion therapy ban, mandates masks for meetings

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown City Council also passed the first reading of an ordinance that would add Conversion Therapy as one of the prohibited actions included in the city’s Human Rights Ordinance. The ordinance was passed unanimously with no dispute and in doing so, made Morgantown the second municipality in West Virginia to pass an ordinance banning the pseduoscientific practice to some degree.

“I can tell you that preventing this will one hundred percent save lives,” said Morgantown Human Rights Commission Chair Ash Orr. “This will absolutely save queer young adults, this will save adults who have undergone conversion therapy, knowing that they’re protected within our city,” they said.

The ordinance, itself, is a slight expansion on the original Human Rights Ordinance passed by Morgantown City Council and would add to the ability of the city’s Human Rights Commission to investigate any complaints related to the controversial practice. Originally passed to create an investigative body regarding complaints regarding housing discrimination, racial discrimination, among other concerns, the ordinance expands on that, allowing any complaints reporting the pseudoscientific practice in use within Morgantown City limits, to be investigated and to recommend penalties for the violation. The ordinance was not only widely supported by members of council but by LGBTQ advocates as well for being a step ahead of a national issue despite its lack of evidence taking place in Morgantown City Limits.

“We don’t have the numbers for how often a pseudoscientific practice is occurring in Morgantown, but we know it’s happening in our country, we know it’s happening in our state,” said Morgantown resident Marly Ynigues. “And we know there is no official metric tracking the pain that it is causing West Virginians,” she said.

Morgantown city council tabled approval of an agreement with WVU and the DOH for improvements to Beechurst Avenue for 2022. The improvements will improve traffic flow by adding a turn lane, drainage and add some sidewalks.

The project will tie into improvements to Beechurst Avenue as part of the construction of the new West Virginia University Reynolds Hall.

Councilors have passed the first reading of a resolution that will require masks for council, board and commission meetings for residents 2-year-old and up. Residents who need need special considerations would be asked to contact the city clerk.

“I just think that being able to make folks feel safe coming in and coming out of our meeting especially if we’re going to continue to have them in-person is extremely important,” Vega said,” Because we want to make them feel like they can participate.”

Bill Kawecki represents the Second Ward and said the mask mandate could be used as an incentive to encourage residents to get the vaccine.

“I agree, I think given the circumstance until this community is deemed sufficiently vaccinated we should be careful what we do indoors,” Kawecki said,” And be respectful of each other and the public.”


Joe Nelson contributed to this article.