We may be making progress at the Supreme Court, but that doesn’t imply that progress is happening elsewhere.
There has been a bill in the West Virginia House of Delegates to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. But its sponsor, West Virginia’s first openly gay legislator Stephen Skinner (D-Jefferson County) has announced that he has asked the chairman of the committee considering the bill to forget about it ahead of today’s procedural deadline. Skinner expressed concerns that the proposed exemption for religious organizations would be amended so broadly as to make the bill meaningless.
I believe that the wisest course of action today is to delay the battle in the House for another day.
Skinner thanked the hundreds of volunteers who have lobbied for the bill thought phone banks and in person. He also thanked those lawmakers who had co-sponsored and expressed vocal support for the measure.
To those of you who support the (bill) but feel you cannot vote for it, it is not my job to soothe your conscience. I will not give up on you, but I want you to explain to your children, your grandchildren, your brothers, sisters and friends, why you will not do so.
The bill sought to add sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act, which prohibits workplace and public accommodation discrimination…and both sexual orientation and age to the state’s fair housing law.
Senate President Jeff Kessler had proposed similar legislation in the Senate, but that bill was awaiting passage in the House. The Senate has passed the measure in recent years only to have it fail in the House of Delegates.
If they can’t get it out of the House, there’s no reason for the Senate to pass it yet again. But I am the first to tell you that if the House passed it over to here, we would take it up.
–Judiciary Committee Chair Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha)
The House measure defined sexual orientation to include heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and “gender identity or expression”. There was a plan to remove transgender people from the bill entirely, but Skinner refused to do so.
I have to do what I think is best for the bill as the lead sponsor, and what is best for all of the LGBT community in West Virginia.
Opponent Kelli Sobonya (R-Cabell County) said she objects to carving out classes of people for what she calls “extra protections”.
I’ve voted against other bills in the past that would elevate government workers such as myself. I just think that our constitution gives protection to all, and our constitution wants all to be equal, and we keep adding and adding and adding.
Ms. Sobonya apparently does not notice it when the constitutionally guaranteed protection is not available to everyone.
Sobonya says that her constituents have asked her to vote against the bill, but they are not providing a reason for that wish.
From what people I’m hearing from, it’s their religious freedom. A lot of them who talk to me aren’t giving a reason, they just want me to vote against it.
Skinner quoted Justice Sonia Sotomayor in his speech on the floor.
Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them?