West Virginia Republican Says LGBT Activists Trying to Push an 'Agenda'
West Virginia Senate Republican Majority Whip Craig Blair has introduced legislation which would nullify all local nondiscrimination ordinances that do not mirror existing state law. As LGBT people have no nondiscrimination protections under state law, Blair's bill is being viewed as anti-gay – a charge he says "astounds" him.
West Virginia's Human Rights Act only protects people based on "race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability or familial status" in employment, public accommodations, and housing. It does not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Because it is extremely lacking, eight municipalities have chosen to protect their residents by expanding protections to include LGBT people.
But Sen. Blair says his bill would level the playing field and make it easier for businesses to enter or expand across the state, without having to worry about all those messy regulations that just happen to help keep a certain segment of the population safe from discrimination.
“What is happening is that West Virginia is becoming a quilt or a patchwork of different ordinances pertaining to this issue,” Blair told the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
He instead claims his bill, SJR 13, is a jobs bill.
“This doesn't have anything to do with discrimination or anything like that. That's not what this piece of legislation is about. It's about jobs. We're trying to level the playing field throughout West Virginia making it so we can actually get jobs here and get people back to work and treat every one of our West Virginia citizens equally and fairly.”
Most business organizations, like state Chambers of Commerce, say their members prefer to do business in states with strong protections, including for LGBT people.
Blair told the Gazette-Mail he is “astounded” his legislation is being called anti-gay.
“In my mind I don't see how anybody can perceive this as an assault on any group,” he said. “In fact, it's making sure that the playing field is absolutely level and that we're all treated equally.”
“I live in the Star Trek world,” he said, explaining that Star Trek is known for its diversity.
Despite Sen. Blair's protests, his bill, which says it is to be designated the “No Protected Class Amendment,” actually includes a section titled "Elimination of Protected Class," and says nothing specifically about about jobs or job creation.
"The purpose of this resolution is ensure that businesses, organizations and employers doing business in West Virginia are subject to uniform nondiscrimination laws and obligations," Blair's bill states.
Some responses via Twitter:
Please tell me who will be running against Senator Craig Blair so I may donate to their campaign.— robbid (@robbid) February 21, 2016
Craig Blair says he lives in the Star Trek world, presumably because gay people don't exist there. https://t.co/MvIJQvrACF— Brian Powell (@bitmapped) February 23, 2016
Craig Blair championed home rule. It didn’t occur to him that cities could use home rule to pass non-discrimination ordinances? #WVPOL— Chris Hodge (@ChrisHodgeWV) February 23, 2016