Welcome to Thurmond, West Virginia. Once a booming railroad town with a population of 700, today it is home to a total of five–yes, five–people.
The town had its hey day in the roaring 1920s, boasting two hotels, two banks, and a number of other commercial buildings. Over the decades, the population gradually dwindled. And in 1984, Thurmond was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
But don’t think that this historic small town is stuck in the past.
This week, all five of Thurwond’s residents voted unanimously to adopt a new town ordinance that extends discrimination prohibitions on employment, housing and public accommodations to LGBT individuals.
West Virgina’s current non-discrimination measure doesn’t offer any protections to LGBT people.
Tighe Bullock, a member of Thurmond’s council, told The Huffington Post that some residents (he didn’t name any names) questioned whether or not a ban on employment discrimination was really necessary, considering that the town doesn’t have any employers, but they ultimately decided to enact the ordinance for symbolic purposes.
“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. “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.”
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the advocacy group Fairness West Virginia, agrees. He told The Huffington Post that Thurmond’s new ordinance, as well as similar protections adopted in other communities across the state, shows there is “movement afoot” in creating a statewide measure, which he believes could have a positive impact on West Virginia’s economy as it would encourage businesses with diverse employees to relocate to the Mountain State.
“Passing this ordinance is living up to that ideal that all West Virginians are free and we’re free from discrimination,” Bullock said. “We’re free from fear of being fired for our gender or our sexual orientation.”