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W.Va. House bill bars excluding gays from juries

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gays and lesbians can be fired or evicted in West Virginia because of their sexual orientation, but they could no longer be excluded from serving on juries under a bill passed by the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

The bill would include sexual orientation among the factors that courts cannot use to eliminate potential jurors. Currently courts cannot ban jurors based on race, color, religion, sex, nation of origin, economic status or disability.

Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, offered the sexual orientation amendment to a bill that concerned disqualifying jurors who have been convicted of felonies. The amendment passed 17-6 over Republican opposition. Several Republican delegates who voted against the amendment said they were caught off guard because the amendment was not closely related to the original bill. They also said they didn't know that there was currently a problem that needed addressing.

Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, said that he could think of a million reasons to support the amendment but not a single reason to oppose it.

Earlier this session Skinner sponsored a bill that would have barred housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. That bill stalled because of limited support.

Versions of that bill have passed the Senate in past years but stalled in the House.

 


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