Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WEST VIRGINIA RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT ; Businesses Welcome LGBT Patrons

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WEST VIRGINIA RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT ; Businesses Welcome LGBT Patrons

Article excerpt

As Nicole Brown searched for companies to provide the cake, flowers and other items for her wedding, she felt a sense of trepidation with every new business she approached. She worried about how they would respond when they found out that her partner, Sara, is a woman.

"It's supposed to be this time where everything is perfect," Brown said. "I respect other people's beliefs, and I didn't want to step on any toes."

After she learned that the House of Delegates had passed the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill that opponents fear could allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers, Brown decided she didn't want other same-sex couples to experience that anxiety.

The fourth-grade teacher created a design that reads "All Are Welcome Here" for LGBT friendly businesses to post to let customers know they don't approve of discrimination.

"It's important to me because I'm a part of this community and everyone should feel safe, she said. "Everyone should feel welcome. No one should have to worry about whether a business is going to turn you away based on how you were born or the person you love.

But before she could even get the word out about her design, local businesses had started working on a similar campaign to let customers know they can feel safe patronizing their establishments.

Paul Greco, owner of Sam's Uptown Cafe and the Boulevard Tavern, in Charleston, said he hopes, "All Kinds are Welcome Here stickers, which were designed by Jessica Kennedy, will be ready for distribution at Sam's by the end of the week. Interested businesses can also reach out through the Sam's Facebook page.

The bars publicly denounced House Bill 4012 Friday in a Facebook post that resulted in almost 2,000 likes.

"Sam's and the Tavern are, have always been, and will always continue to be safe places for folks of all genders, races, creeds, colors, religions, and sexual orientation, the post read. "We welcome your business and promise to only judge you by the music you play on the jukebox.

Greco is still working out the details but said the stickers will not be sold for a profit. He said West Virginia needs to be sending the message that the state is open for business. …

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