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New Fairness director will continue push for non-discrimination act

By David Gutman, Staff writer

Fairness West Virginia, the state’s pre-eminent organization advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights issues, has a new director.

Andrew Schneider, a former executive director of the West Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, will replace Kay Flaminio, the organization’s director, this fall, Fairness West Virginia said in a news release.

Schneider has spent the last six years as the director of the ACLU of Connecticut, where he worked on successful campaigns to legalize gay marriage, abolish the death penalty and legalize medicinal marijuana.

Prior to that, he was the director of the ACLU in West Virginia for six years.

A native of New York, Schneider has worked for the ACLU for the last 19 years, previously working for the organization in New Mexico and in Virginia.

Flaminio is moving to North Carolina for family reasons, the release said.

Among other issues, Fairness West Virginia is active in pushing to legalize gay marriage in the state. A pending lawsuit, filed by three same-sex couples, challenges the state ban on same-sex marriage. That lawsuit is linked to a similar one in Virginia, where the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down the ban on same-sex marriage. That decision, however, was put on temporary hold by the U.S. Supreme Court. Fairness has sent a letter to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey asking him to drop his support of the state’s ban on gay marriage.

Fairness West Virginia has also been active in recent efforts to pass state legislation that would make it illegal to fire or evict a person on the basis of sexual orientation.

In each of the last few years, efforts to pass such a bill have stalled in the state Legislature.

“I think the mood of the country is changing as a whole, and with it so is West Virginia,” Schneider said, in predicting future success for a non-discrimination act. He foresaw a situation in which the Supreme Court issued a favorable ruling on gay marriage, but the state still did not pass a nondiscrimination act.

“People will be able to get married to the one you love, and yet in places like West Virginia, people will still be able to fire you for that kind of relationship,” Schneider said. “That just strikes most people, including most West Virginians, as fundamentally unfair.”

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter.


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