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West Virginia’s Phantom-Homophobia Bill Just Went Down in Flames

by matt baume March 03, 2016

The_West_Virginia_State_Capitol_Building_in_Charleston,_WV

Could you use a little good news? Well, here you go: West Virginia legislators just resoundingly rejected one of those “religious freedom” bills that are really thinly-veiled attempts to punish queer people. Nicely done, West Virginia. Now there’s just two dozen-ish similar bills to worry about across the country.

Laws like West Virginia’s HB 4012 are given innocuous names that invoke freedom and faith and the First Amendment, but make no mistake about what their true purpose is: they make it legal to mistreat same-sex couples and then claim an exemption to nondiscrimination laws.

There may be something instructive in the way that the West Virginia victory played out: For one thing, lots of business groups spoke out against it prior to the vote. That’s happened in other states, but the opposition was more organized in West Virginia, and didn’t happen at the last minute as it has elsewhere.

The bill was also amended to include some protections for LGBTs, and that might’ve played a role in dooming it as well. Equality-minded legislators opposed it on the grounds that it legalized discrimination; and with those protections in place, bigots opposed it because it didn’t give them enough opportunities to mistreat homosexuals. In other words, maybe compromise is the key to unraveling similar bills pending in other states.

We’re not even close to seeing the last of these kinds of laws. Now that marriage is legal all over the country, anti-gay zealots are getting creative with attempts to harm anyone who might be queer. And the scariest part is that they might be successful.




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