Anti-LGBT Bill Stripping Local Non-Discrimination Ordinances Advances in West Virginia

by Stephen Peters

On the heels of a successful attack on fairness and equality in Arkansas, anti-equality forces are trying to quickly push through a similar bill abolishing local liberty in West Virginia

CHARLESTON - Today, Fairness West Virginia, the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for LGBT West Virginians, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, strongly condemned a vote by the West Virginia House Government Organization Committee to advance H.B. 2881, the so-called West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act. This anti-equality bill would strip away the rights of local municipalities to pass non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT West Virginians.

“Since towns and cities began adopting LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances throughout West Virginia, LGBT West Virginians have been encouraged to come out of the shadows to lead happy, open lives in their communities,” said Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider. “H.B. 2881 would turn the clock back on this progress and tarnish West Virginia’s reputation as a welcoming place to live and work.”

“This bill is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by anti-equality forces to strip away local control and deny municipal governments the ability to pass civil rights protections for LGBT people,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “We call on all fair-minded West Virginians to stand up and help us defeat this hateful bill.”

Similar to a bill backed by anti-equality forces in Arkansas, H.B. 2881 seeks to usurp the power of city and town councils across West Virginia, nullify all standing nondiscrimination ordinances and resolutions, and make any future efforts of local government for non-discrimination illegal. The bill now moves forward to a hearing for public comment at 8:00 A.M. on Friday, February 27th.

Seriously undermining the democratic process, the bill states:

“(a) No county, municipality or other political subdivision may adopt or enforce a local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.
(b) Any local law, ordinance, resolution, rule or policy adopted before the operative date of this act that violates subsection (a) of this section shall be null and void.”

From the smallest town of Thurmond to the biggest city of Charleston, many communities across West Virginia have decided to stop waiting for state legislators to do what is right, but rather have taken it upon themselves to protect their LGBT citizens by adopting city and town nondiscrimination ordinances and resolutions.  H.B. 2881 not only prohibits the rights of communities to govern themselves but it also interferes with democracy in its purest form: city and town councils. When a nondiscrimination ordinance or resolution is considered or passed, each community has the opportunity to speak out against it, vote the city or town leadership out of office, or repeal the ordinance. There’s no need for interference by the state legislature.

Now that marriage equality is the law of the land in the Mountain State, LGBT West Virginians can be legally "married on Sunday and fired on Monday" simply because of who they are. City and town ordinances are the only means local communities have to protect their citizens from discrimination.

Fairness West Virginia and HRC are committed to stopping this assault on LGBT West Virginians and kill the bill before it becomes law.

Fairness West Virginia is the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender West Virginians. Our mission is to ensure LGBT people can be open, honest and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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