Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Harassment by Family Policy Council of West Virginia, Delays Gay Rights Bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local and national politics doomed a bill that would have protected gays and lesbians against discrimination at work and in housing, supporters of the measure say.

Last month, a divided state Senate passed the bill (SB238), which would have added sexual orientation to the state's existing civil-rights laws. Since then, it's been stuck in the House Judiciary Committee.

Supporters realized Monday the bill wouldn't make it to the House floor for a vote, said Seth DiStefano, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia.

He and others say state and national attention to gay marriage - including last week's Iowa Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage there - overshadowed the discrimination issue in West Virginia.

When the Iowa court issued its ruling, House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, gave a floor speech urging a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman. That was a few days after House Republicans unsuccessfully tried to force a floor vote on a resolution against gay marriage.

"I think the opposition definitely took advantage of the microphone," DiStefano said.

House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster also said she believed the marriage amendment was intended to distract from the anti-discrimination bill. Opponents used the issue as a "scare tactic," the Kanawha County Democrat said.

In March, the Family Policy Council of West Virginia targeted Webster and Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, in a phone campaign. The group claimed the two women were blocking a ban on gay marriage.

On Tuesday, Webster - who sponsored the House version of the bill - said the issue was one of her top priorities this session. The proposal likely would have made it out of her committee, but then would have failed, she said....[Story continued here]

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


No comments: