CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Fairness West Virginia released the results of a new study involving the economic analysis of the stigma and discrimination of LGBTQ people in the Mountain State.

According to Fairness West Virginia, the data from UCLA’s Williams Institute shows legal discrimination toward LGBTQ people in West Virginia costs the state at least $50 million annually. The organization says the study “puts a price tag” on several specific areas of disparities in the state.

“This report makes it clear that discrimination comes with a hefty price tag,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “It’s time for our lawmakers to take the Discrimination Deficit seriously. It’s unconscionable that, in the same week this study is released showing how much discrimination costs our state, some lawmakers want to make the situation worse by passing the ‘License to Discriminate in Foster Care’ bill.”

Fairness West Virginia says stigma and discrimination put LGBTQ people at a greater risk of depression, smoking and binge drinking. According to the study, improving the disparities in the state could add between $50.9 million and $68.6 million to West Virginia’s economy. The study also found that West Virginia businesses lose approximately $8,474 on average for every employee who leaves the state to find a community that is more LGBTQ-inclusive.

“Senate Bill 13 will keep more kids in foster care because it will allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to turn away qualified, loving LGBTQ parents,” Schneider said. “This bill won’t do anything to help the nearly 7,000 kids we have in foster care. We simply can’t afford SB 13. Our Discrimination Deficit is already too high.”

Senate Bill 13 would allow taxpayer-funded child welfare agencies to refuse to serve LGBTQ parents and children, including LGBTQ children who have been victims of abuse or neglect, according to the organization.

Fairness WV says an analysis from 2019 shows that it can be costly for the state to keep children in foster care for long periods of time. They say nearly half a million dollars is added to the state’s discrimination deficit for every child who stays in foster care for four years rather than finding a permanent family after one year.