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UPDATE: Jurors determine board members discriminated against woman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County jury has found that three board members with the Bob Burdette Center, a Charleston community center based on the West Side, discriminated against a woman because she was gay.

After hours of deliberation, a six-person jury found that Norm Cannada, Sam Sommerville and Rev. Ron Stoner discriminated against Jessica Hudson, 34, of Charleston, because of her sexual orientation. No monetary damages were awarded in the case. 

Sommerville was president of the board. Stoner and Cannada were both board members.

The jury dismissed the discrimination claims against two other Bob Burdette Center board members, Jean Cunningham and Mark Miller, and claims against the Bob Burdette Center, which was also named in the suit. 

The three men and three women on the jury deliberated for more than 16 hours throughout Thursday and Friday before returning a verdict at about 7 p.m.

Hudson claimed the board members fired her days after offering her the job as executive director of the Bob Burdette Center because she is a lesbian. She sought financial damages in the case.

Hudson alleged the board members fired her days after staff members at the center discovered she is a lesbian after viewing her Facebook profile.

The board members' attorney, Dave Mincer, said Hudson was fired because she misrepresented herself in her resume and during the interview.

The board members claim Hudson had deceived them into believing she had a college degree when she does not. Her resume states that she completed "all courses with a concentration on education."

However, Hudson maintains that she never told the board members she obtained a degree, and that they never asked.

Mincer also claims Hudson misrepresented her involvement with the Charleston Young Professionals and Witcher Baptist Church.

During her testimony, Hudson claimed she maintained an association with the professional group and she worked on a subcommittee that recruited board members for nonprofit organizations.

She also claims she was baptized at Witcher Baptist Church, which she has attended all of her life.

The jury dismissed claims that the board members and the center discriminated against Hudson based on gender stereotyping. Hudson's attorney Rick Brown argued that Hudson didn't fit into the board members' idea of how a woman should act.One juror was dismissed late this morning because he fell ill. The visibly upset male juror was brought before Judge Carrie Webster to explain his illness before being dismissed. 

An alternate juror was also dismissed after he told Webster he had read an article in a local newspaper about the case despite instructions not to do so.

A second alternate was then called in.

The West Virginia Human Rights Act does not list sexual orientation as a protected class. However, the jurors found that the three board members had discriminated against Hudson based on public policy.

Charleston has an ordinance prohibiting any business or organization operating in the city from discriminating based on sexual orientation.  

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him  




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