03/11/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
West Virginia will not be adding sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination law for at least this year. The lawmakers did not act in time on the bills meant to protect the people of West Virginia from discrimination based upon sexual orientation. The session ends on Saturday, so there will not be time to work on the bills.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, a Democrat, stated “For this year, it’s obviously dead.” He was a sponsor of the Senate measure. The relevant committees failed to take up the legislation. Currently, state laws prevent discrimination in the workplace, in housing, and at public places based upon race, religion and disability. The Senate has cleared legislation on this issue twice before- in 2008 and 2009, but the House never did.
According to Kessler, the Senate did not take action on it because they wanted the House to go first. House Speaker Rick Thompson has not commented. Last month, Kessler and Delegate Barbara Fleischauer appeared at a news conference with Sam Hall, a gay coal miner who filed a lawsuit against Massey Energy over harassment that he received on the job.
Fairness West Virginia President Stephen Skinner blamed a lack of leadership in the House for the demise of the legislation. According to the West Virginia Gazette:
“The Senate has passed it twice,” said Skinner, whose group advocates for gays and lesbians. “I know they would pass it in an instant. We needed some real leadership in the House, and we didn’t see it.”
Kessler said he now plans to try to amend an anti-bullying bill (HB3225) to protect students from bullying based on their sexual orientation — or perceived sexual orientation.
“That’s probably one of the typical types of taunts that kids throw at that adolescent age,” he said.
The bill is pending in the Senate, and it is meant to prevent cyber-bullying and bullying at bus stops and on school busses; however, the Family Policy Council of West Virginia and the West Virginia Family Foundations oppose adding sexual orientation to either bill because they believe that homosexuality is a sin according to their theocratic religious beliefs.
Delegate Meshea Poore had sponsored a bill to toughen anti-bullying policies and to have school bullies undergo at least two months of counseling. The House Education Committee never took up Poore’s bill which would have also added bullying based on sexual orientation, race, religion, disability and other characteristics. She wished to do this because the current law is rather vauge.
According to the report:
“There’s certain school administrators and teachers that really don’t understand what falls under bullying,” she said.
Poore emphasized that her bill wasn’t intended to only help gay children. She said all kinds of bullying have led to suicides, emotional problems and absenteeism.
“The intent was to help children,” she said. “That is all we’re trying to do, to put more teeth into the bullying [law].”
Unfortunately, many anti-LGBT groups want to protect their right to bully young lesbians, gays and trans people, and to ruin their lives in the name of enforcing heterosexuality.