CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I hope one of the bills that passes the 81st Legislature will be the Employment and Housing Non-Discrimination Act. Passage of this bill will add sexual orientation to the existing Human Rights Act, which currently covers race, creed, disability and sex. Why does this matter?
Dr. Coy Flowers, president of the Fairness WV Board of Directors, wrote in a recent op-ed that there are 40,000 GLBT workers in our state. All of these workers could be legally fired or evicted simply because of their sexual orientation or their perceived orientation. That's right, an employer or landlord could evict or fire you if they just think you are gay.
The cities of Charleston and Morgantown have amended their Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as have the state's two flagship universities.
I have been openly gay for most of my life, but I did not choose to be gay. I did choose to live my life as best I could, given the hand I was dealt. When I was growing up, no one asked me if I wanted to be gay or straight or bisexual, or transgender. Did someone ask you?
Let me just pose this question to you: What person in his right mind would actually choose to be a member of one of the most hated minorities in the world? The short answer is that no one would.
Despite living in a democratically based republic, where all people are "equal," there are thousands of people who cannot be openly gay. They live in fear that they will be fired from their jobs, rejected by their families, denied housing, or be physically and mentally abused. They live in dread that their "dirty little secret" will be discovered.
The movement for full civil rights for the GLBT community began at a tiny club named Stonewall in New York City in June, over 40 years ago. The patrons of this club, mostly drag queens and people who were perceived to be gay, had been constantly harassed by the New York City Police Department. Since the Stonewall Riot, a true worldwide gay community has emerged and has gradually coalesced into a political and social force that has changed, and will continue to change, the face of society.
We are a diverse community, a legitimate subculture, composed of men and women who are black, yellow, white, brown, red and all the other colors that make up the struggle to attain full citizenship.