CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Several West Virginia lawmakers plan to introduce a bill written to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public places.
The West Virginia “Fairness Act” is a bipartisan proposal adding members of the LGBTQ+ community to the Mountain State’s civil rights laws.
There are currently 21 states with full LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protection law in place.
Fourteen West Virginia municipalities currently protect the civil rights of those in the LGBTQ+ community through local fairness laws, which activists say is only a sliver of the state’s population.
Fairness WV Executive Director, Andrew Schneider said, “you get 200,000 people out of state with 1.8 million, so that’s roughly 12 percent of the population.”
Charleston was the first city to enact fairness laws in 2007. The Fairness Act would turn the Mountain State into a more accepting and safe place for LGBTQ+ individuals to call home.
Huntington-resident, Samuel Green is a 22-year-old transgender man who first-handly experienced discrimination for simply being his true self.
“Because there’s so much hate deep-rooted in the state, like if we have laws protecting us, then that’s the biggest first step in getting people to accept us.”
Without these protections in place, the state’s population continues to decrease.
“Transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual people are not just leaving the state, they’re taking their talents with them, and that harms our state because these are highly-educated people with skills that would help to benefit our economy,” said Schneider.
Bill sponsor, Del. Joshua Higginbotham, R-Putnam, said, “as a 24-year-old native West Virginian who knows many other people in my generation who has left the state, I can tell you that we need to do everything we can to keep young people here. Legal protections for minorities are critical to doing that.”
The Fairness Act is in its drafting stage and is expected to be one of the first bills introduced in this legislative session.
Governor Jim Justice previously stated he would sign the bill without hesitation if it reaches his desk.