CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – It’s only day two of the legislative session and controversy is already brewing. For several months, the LGBTQ community has been working with lawmakers on a bill called the “Fairness Act.” Previously, it seemed the legislative leadership could be on board, but today, Senate President Mitch Carmichael said he doesn’t think it’s the right path for West Virginia.
Hundreds of bills will make their way through the legislature this session, and Fairness West Virginia hopes to make the Fairness Act one of them.
Delegate John Doyle says, “It is shameful that we haven’t passed this and didn’t pass it many years ago.”
The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes for employment, housing, and public accommodations, which is something the group has been attempting for more than a decade.
Doyle said, “We got 30 some people lined up to sponsor it. We have to introduce multiple bills so everyone who wants to sponsor it can sponsor it, but the leadership won’t bring it up that’s assinine.”
After he hosted several roundtables on the bill before the session, many thought Senate President Mitch Carmichael would be on board this year.
Senator Roman Prezioso said, “He’s been very favorable in putting together legislation. I think the votes are in the Senate to pass the bill.”
But on day two of the session, Carmichael told “Inside West Virginia Politics” that it’s not time for West Virginia to pass that act.
“We have to have an open society,” Charmichael said. “I don’t think at this point in time it’s the right path to pursue for West Virginia. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our state.”
Fairness West Virginia agrees it’s not the time for West Virginia; the time was years ago, and they say even without the vocal support of the leadership, they’ll continue to fight for the bill.
Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider said, “Despite what the senate president said, this bill is very much alive. We have never seen more support behind this legislation than ever before.”
Senate President Mitch Carmichael also brought up an employment discrimination case now before US Supreme Court, which could impact federal law on the issue. Fairness West Virginia says the state needs its own protections.