HRC released the following statement after a bipartisan vote in the West Virginia Senate rejected HB 4012, a shameful anti-LGBT proposal that would put LGBT people -- and West Virginians of all walks of life -- at risk for discrimination. This bill failed to advance this afternoon by a vote of 7-27.
“For one day at least, West Virginia is spared from legislation that would increase the likelihood of unacceptable discrimination and a flood of expensive legal challenges,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Unfortunately, despite today’s events, more work lies ahead. LGBT West Virginians still remain at risk for being fired or denied a job because of who they are, or whom they love.”
The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute found that a 54 percent majority of West Virginians oppose a Religious Freedom Restoration Act bill (like HB 4012) that would allow small business owners to deny services to LGBT people -- even for religious reasons -- and that a 60 percent majority of West Virginians support protecting LGBT people against discrimination in employment, housing and access to public places.
Local business groups across the state -- Generation West Virginia and the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce -- have all spoken out against the bill, saying that it would hurt the state's economy and expose businesses to unnecessary lawsuits. Employers like AT&T, Marriott and the NCAA have alsosignaled their opposition to the bill. And newspapers like the Charleston Gazette-Mail and Register-Herald have editorialized against HB 4012.
When similar legislation was taken up in Indiana last year, the debate cost the state as much as $60 million in convention revenue alone from lost business, according to a recent survey. The survey from Visit Indy found that “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.”
The attacks on fairness and equality in West Virginia are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature. HB 4012 is among three bills introduced in West Virginia that could allow individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people.