CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, on Wednesday asked that the House not pursue legislation this session to add sexual orientation to the protected categories in West Virginia's Human Rights Act (HB2856), saying the only way the bill could pass the House is if it were watered-down to the point of ineffectiveness.
"Unfortunately, I know there are many people in this chamber who support the bill but who will not vote for it," said Skinner, the first openly gay member of the Legislature.
"Please tell me why gay people should continue to be discriminated against in this state?" he asked colleagues in a speech on the House floor.
The bill, which would have to be approved by two House committees by Friday in order to have a chance of passage this session, would have added sexual orientation to those protected by the Human Rights Act. Currently, the law prohibits discrimination in employment or housing opportunities on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability or familial status.
Skinner said it is clear that a majority of West Virginians support the bill, but suggested there are portions of the state where intolerance remains high.
He read a reader's commentary published recently in the Lincoln Journal, which included several racial and ethnic slurs and a gay slur.
Afterward, Skinner said chances for passage of the bill this session are very faint, particularly since the state Senate is waiting for the House to act on the bill.
"I thought it was not in the best interest of these folks to run this bill," he said of the potential for a watered-down version of the legislation.
"I will remind you the struggle continues, from Selma to Stonewall," Skinner told colleagues, adding, "We will get there. Not today, though."
Also during the House floor session Wednesday: