CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia will not add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination laws, at least not this year.
Lawmakers didn't act in time on a pair of bills (SB226, HB2045) meant to protect West Virginians from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. The session ends Saturday.
"For this year, it's obviously dead," said acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, a sponsor of the Senate measure and a candidate in the special election for governor.
Committees in the House of Delegates and the Senate never took up the legislation.
The state's existing civil rights laws include characteristics such as race, religion and disability. These laws are supposed to prevent discrimination in the workplace, in obtaining housing and at public places such as restaurants and hotels.
Previous legislation to add sexual orientation to the law has cleared the Senate twice before -- in 2009 and 2008 -- but the House has never passed such proposals.
This year, the Senate didn't take action on the issue because "we didn't think the House would pass it," Kessler said.
House Speaker Rick Thompson, a Wayne County Democrat who is running for governor, did not return a request for comment.
Last month, Kessler and Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, appeared at a Capitol news conference with Sam Hall, a former coal miner who is gay. In a lawsuit filed against Massey Energy Co. in December, Hall alleged co-workers harassed him on the job because of his sexual orientation.
Fairness West Virginia President Stephen Skinner blamed the legislation's demise on what he calls a lack of leadership on the issue in the House.
"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."