Flowers said the Employment and Housing Discrimination Act would add sexual orientation to the state's human rights law, which already prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, disability and gender.
Flowers said 100 businesses -- including Appalachian Power, Frontier Communications, West Virginia American Water and Charleston Area Medical Center -- support fair treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. Twenty-six of West Virginia's 30 largest companies already have policies that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Jeremy Dys, who heads a group that opposes adding sexual orientation to the state Human Rights Act, said Tuesday that there's a "fracturing of support" for Kessler's proposed bill in the House and Senate. Dys predicted the revision would unfairly burden West Virginia businesses.
"Frankly, this [proposal] should not be a priority now, especially in these tough economic times," said Dys, president of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia. "Businesses in this economy can't afford to spend money on lawsuits if employees brought a suit alleging discrimination."
About 57,000 West Virginians identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Flowers said.
"They want the same opportunity as anyone else to contribute to this state," he said.
Also Tuesday, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant announced that her office has adopted a nondiscrimination policy.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.