CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 81st Legislature failed last year to pass the Employment and Housing Non-Discrimination Act (EHNDA) again. Passage of this bill would have added sexual orientation and gender identity or expression to the existing Human Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, which currently covers race, creed, disability and sex. Why does this matter?
The Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law School, found that there are over 25,000 LGBT workers in this 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. There are probably many more, lots of people are afraid to say that they are gay, and for good reason.
The cities of Charleston, Morgantown, Harpers Ferry, Buckhannon and now Huntington, have amended their Human Rights Acts to include sexual orientation and gender identity, 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: 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 no one.
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 LGBT 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. That night they decided they were not going to take it anymore. They struck back at NYC'S finest and the movement to attain full civil rights for the GLBT community was born.
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.