March 5, 2013
LGBT group rallies for protection from discrimination
Chris Dorst
Senate President Jeff Kessler speaks during a Fairness West Virginia rally Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda. Kessler plans to introduce legislation this week that would add sexual orientation to the list of protections under the state's Human Rights Act.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A group representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender West Virginians urged state lawmakers Tuesday to pass legislation that would add sexual orientation to the list of protections under the state's Human Rights Act.

"All West Virginians deserve to be treated fairly by the laws of their own state regardless of sexual orientation," said Coy Flowers, president of Fairness West Virginia, a statewide civil rights advocacy group. "This is a common sense update to existing law."

The West Virginia Senate has twice passed the bill in recent years, but the House has rejected the legislation.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, seemed optimistic that the bill would pass both chambers this year and be signed into law. He plans to introduce the legislation later this week.

"We will pass a bill that grants all men and women ... equal opportunity to prosper in this state," Kessler said to a crowd of about 100 people Tuesday morning at the state Capitol. "I believe, in West Virginia, every day should be 'Fairness Day.'"

Many of the bill's supporters held up signs saying, "Hard work doesn't discriminate."

Flowers said West Virginia law allows employers to fire workers based on sexual orientation. Landlords also can evict tenants for the same reason, he said.

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