Friday, March 20, 2009

The People of West Virginia announce formation of their first statewide GLBT Equality organization

Regardless of what the superstitious might say, Friday the 13th was a very lucky day in West Virginia.

''Today, in the State Senate, we passed ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act),'' Stephen Skinner said March 13, referring to Senate Bill 238, now facing a House battle to protect West Virginians against housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. ''We sort of timed our public announcement to coincide with this.'' (See Video coverage of Senate Bill 238 debate)

That public announcement is the one telling everyone that West Virginia, whose border rests little more than 50 miles from the District's, now has a statewide organization fighting for GLBT equality: Fairness West Virginia.

Adding that Fairness has already been up and running behind the scenes -- ''zeroing in on lobbying like a laser'' -- Skinner, founder and president of Fairness, says there is more to this new organization than getting things done in the state capital, Charleston.

''To have people who have deep roots in West Virginia self-identify as gay is going to have a huge impact,'' he says. ''That goes back to the politics of being out. If a [gay] 13-year-old sees doctors [and] lawyers being out, then we have made a difference.''

Whatever differences Fairness may make, there is no doubting that there is interest in the nascent organization. A pledge to have 1,000 supporters registered within three weeks of going live has been well surpassed, at least in terms of Facebook buddies.

A more tangible measure of this new force may be its 12-member board of academics, attorneys, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and veterans, many of whom have ties to Washington. Skinner, 40, is among them, maintaining an apartment in the District, though he practices law at his family's firm in Charles Town and resides primarily in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

''Part of the reason I wanted to come back was to make...[More]


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