Fairness Act

The Fairness Act would ensure that no LGBTQ person is fired, evicted or denied public services because of who they are or who they love. The bill seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the state’s Human Rights Acts and the Fair Housing Act. Legal discrimination sends the wrong signal to companies considering relocating here who need to recruit the best and brightest employees. It discourages and to young people from staying and helping our economy grow.

The Fairness Act does not apply to churches or any other house of worship and will not curb the free speech of religious leaders. Religious freedom should not give any of us the license to discriminate as business owners or landlords.

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Faith Leaders Endorse the Fairness Act

More than 100 diverse faith leaders from across West Virginia signed onto a coalition to endorse the Fairness Act, a proposed bill that would ensure LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public spaces. Faith leaders have partnered with us to advance equality in the past, but this was unprecedented. We’ve never seen such a large and engaged coalition of faith leaders coming together to endorse nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Click here to see the list of faith leaders who endorsed the Fairness Act.

“Each person is created by God, for the Kingdom of God, and nothing we can say or do will remove us from the Love of God. This is why the Fairness Act is needed. While the discussion of human sexuality continues to consume many people’s conversations, nowhere in the Gospel of Jesus Christ are we allowed to remove the ‘God-givenness of any individual or group of people.” — Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia

“In order to remain in West Virginia, our LGBTQ young people need to know that they can build a life here as adults. The Fairness Act ensures their basic rights of housing and employment — a foundation that is crucial for their future contributions to the flourishing of our state.” — Jenny Williams, a Morgantown pastor with the United Methodist Church

“As a member of the Jewish faith, I am proud to stand with my fellow rabbis of our state and spiritual leaders of every faith tradition in West Virginia affirming the fundamental principle that all human beings are created in the Divine Image. The universal message we all share, ‘loving one’s neighbor as yourself’ calls,’ on us to support updating West Virginia’s laws to extend urgently-needed protection to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.” — Rabbi Victor Urecki, of the B’nai Jacob Synagogue.

 

Track this Bill

As with every bill we advocate for, we’ve seen strong bipartisan support for the Youth Mental Health Protection Act. There are so many delegates and senators who want to sponsor this bill that we’ve had to introduce it multiple times. Click the bill number to be read the bill on the Legislature’s website.

 

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Fact Sheet

We need all hands on deck to pass this important bill. As you talk with your lawmaker about why they should support the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, it’s important to have all the facts at your fingertips. This fact sheet will help you out.

Download our fact sheet here.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this bill needed?

Right now, under West Virginia state law, there are no measures that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace, in access to housing and in public spaces like restaurants, shops and government buildings. There are thousands of LGBTQ people living and working in West Virginia, but despite growing public awareness, they still face disproportionate rates of discrimination, harassment and violence in all areas of life. Fortunately, West Virginia can do something about this by passing legislation to affirm the dignity of LGBTQ Mountaineers and ensure they are protected from discrimination.

 

Why do conservatives support nondiscrimination?

A strong majority of conservatives — here in West Virginia and across the country – support nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people not just because these laws are a genuine reflection of their conservative values, but because doing so makes our country stronger. America is a land of opportunity and freedom, where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have the chance to get ahead. Everyone deserves the freedom to achieve the American Dream, including LGBTQ people.

 

Why do people of faith support nondiscrimination?

People of faith understand the importance of the Golden Rule. Treating others as we would want to be treated involves ensuring that all West Virginians are protected equally. We are all God’s children and we all deserve to go about our daily lives without the fear of discrimination.

 

Does this bill threaten religious freedom?

Freedom of religion is important to all of us, including LGBTQ people. It’s one of our nation’s fundamental values. That’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and nothing in this law will change that. LGBTQ people are our friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers. Protecting them from discrimination is about treating others as we want to be treated.

 

Why do businesses support nondiscrimination?

Business leaders across the nation agree: Discrimination is bad for business. Today’s top job creators seek states and communities that are welcoming to everyone, including their families, employees and customers. Additionally, businesses that operate in multiple states under the current patchwork of protections across only 20 states can struggle when there’s a lack of consistency and clarity in the law.

To attract talented workers, spur entrepreneurial innovation, recruit investment, and build a thriving travel and tourism industry, every state needs to welcome all people and treat everyone fairly. It’s time for West Virginia to update our nondiscrimination protections to include all workers and ensure that West Virginia is seen as a great place to do business. 

 

How do the pending Title VII cases before the Supreme Court affect West Virginia/ this bill? 

Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering three cases regarding employment discrimination against LGBTQ people and could strip LGBTQ workers of existing federal employment nondiscrimination protections. But no matter how the Supreme Court rules, our work will not be done. Federal law doesn’t currently prohibit sex discrimination (and therefore not yet sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination) in critical areas, such as in public places like restaurants, stores, hotels, or federally-funded programs. That’s why states like West Virginia, and Congress must pass a bill that ensures express and enduring protections for all LGBTQ people, in all areas of life. 

 

Will this bill put women at risk in women’s restrooms?

We all care about safety, including transgender people, who need to use the restroom just like everyone else. Harassment is already illegal under West Virginia law, and the good news is that updating our nondiscrimination protections absolutely keeps that in place. Anyone who enters a bathroom to do harm and harass others can and should be held accountable. Laws like the Fairness Act are on the books in 20 states, where there have been no uptick in related crimes.

 

How prevalent is discrimination, really?

The harsh reality is that nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans have reporterd experiencing discrimination in their everyday lives, including on the job – and the number of unreported incidents is likely much higher. 

Half of all transgender people have been harassed by someone at their work, and, when asked to present identification, nearly one in five transgender people are refused service because of their gender markers

A recent study from the Williams Institute tells us that West Virginia actually has the highest percentage of transgender youth of any state in the country. It’s important that all of our state’s young people feel safe and supported.

 

The legislature rejected a similar bill last session, why would this year be any different?

Last year, we made progress in building bipartisan support for our legislation to protect freedom and opportunity for LGBTQ Mountaineers and their families. Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo was the lead sponsor of the Fairness Act in the Senate. He was the only Republican legislative leader in the country to sponsor a nondiscrimination bill.

We’ve been working hard over the last year to have conversations with folks from all across the state about what it means to be LGBTQ, and why comprehensive nondiscrimination protections are so important. We’re building bipartisan support among people of all political perspectives, businesses big and small, and people of faith. Momentum is growing for this legislation, and we’re confident that we’re in a strong position to capitalize on last year’s historic progress to advance this bill this year.

 

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