CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Natasha Kerenski, of Hurricane, was fired from a job for being a transgender woman, she didn't think it would take three years to see consequences for what was later determined a wrongful termination.
Kerenski's wife -- a heterosexual female -- was fired, too.
"I don't want anyone else to have to go through that," Kerenski said. "I want to leave this state a better place for the youth that are coming up."
Kerenski attended a rally Monday in support of the Employment and Housing Non-Discrimination Act on Monday as part of Fairness WV Day of Action -- an effort of the LGBT civil rights advocacy organization to include sexual orientation in the state's Human Rights Act.
EHNDA -- House Bill 2856 and Senate Bill 472 -- would make it illegal to deny a person housing or employment because of his or her sexual orientation. "Sexual orientation" as defined in both bills includes "heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression, whether actual or perceived." Fairness WV Board Chair Kelly Kimble said this "trans and gender identity inclusive" language is "a very big deal."
Last year, Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, nixed EHNDA, in part, for fear a watered down version that would exclude transgender people would be passed.
Neither version of the bill applies to "corporations, associations, educational institution or institution of learning or society that is exempt from the religious discrimination provision of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act."
The House of Delegates version of the bill also includes age -- a person 40 years old or older.
Employees excluded from both Senate and House versions of EHNDA are those employed by their parents, spouse or child.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, introduced EHNDA in the Senate last week.
Kessler told the crowd some progress has been made since his last address to the organization, citing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional and Michael Sam's coming out. Sam, a defensive lineman for University of Missouri, discussed Sunday his sexuality with media.
But there's still progress to be made in West Virginia, Kessler said.
"It is the time in West Virginia for all of us to understand that we are all created equal," Kessler said. "Progress is a difficult thing. It doesn't happen over night. We've been fighting this battle, saying this speech, speaking this truth for years."
This year is the fourth time EHNDA has been introduced into the legislature.