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WV Groups Back Bill Providing LGBTQ Legal Protections

The civil rights group Fairness West Virginia is urging lawmakers to pass the Fairness Act for LGBTQ protections in the state. (Fairness West Virginia)
The civil rights group Fairness West Virginia is urging lawmakers to pass the Fairness Act for LGBTQ protections in the state. (Fairness West Virginia)
January 30, 2020

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- LGBTQ groups in West Virginia are fighting to pass the Fairness Act in this year's legislative session.

The bill ensures that no LGBTQ person in the Mountain State is fired, evicted or denied public services because of his or her sexual orientation, according to Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia.

Only 12 West Virginia municipalities provide protections for the LGBTQ community, and Schneider says it's time for the entire state to support LGBTQ individuals as well.

"It's important because LGBTQ West Virginians have experienced discrimination particularly in employment and housing as well as public accommodation," he states. "And this law would make sure that there would be justice serviced if an instance of discrimination occurred against someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender."

Opponents of the bill, such as Delegate Jim Butler, a Republican from Mason County, say the act could have negative consequences for "employers, people who rent or sell homes or anyone who may be accused of being politically incorrect."

If the bill passes, West Virginia would join 21 other states and Washington, D.C., in providing legal protections based on sexual orientation.

Schneider says the Fairness Act is especially needed for the state's transgender community to feel safe.

He points out that a 2017 study shows West Virginia has the highest rate of transgender teenagers per capita in the United States, just over 1% of the population.

"Either transgender people, once they become adults, are leaving our state or they're going back in the closet and disappearing from being counted because of their fear of discrimination," he states.

A little more than 4 million LGBTQ workers age 16 or older live in states without legal protections against employment bias involving sexual orientation and gender identity. About 40,000 of those workers are in West Virginia.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV