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Landmark meeting addresses LGBTQ protections with W.Va. Senate leadership

A landmark meeting in Charleston on Tuesday could set the stage for another statewide debate over LGBTQ rights in West Virginia.

Leaders with Fairness West Virginia sat down for the first time in public with Senate Pres. Mitch Carmichael, (R) Jackson County. They asked him to take up a bill that would provide the LGBTQ community with housing and employment protections.

Danielle Stewart, Chairwoman of Beckley's Human Rights Commission, was a key player in moving forward a similar measure in the City of Beckley under home rule earlier in the year.

The combat veteran described the fear of discrimination as she transitioned to a woman. "I truly thought that when I came out in Beckley, I'd be run out of town. But that did not happen."

Democratic Delegate Danielle Walker from Mongongalia County described the struggles of her gay son as a first time student at WVU. "I remember that 3 a.m. call. He was hysterical. I did not know if my child would live the next minute let alone the next seconds."

Even before the meeting started, Sen. Pres. Carmichael was taking backlash over the visit from his Republican primary opponent, Del. Jim Butler.

Carmichael emphasized the need to move forward on the issue as a legislative body.

"We have to ensure this bill protects those who worry about frivolous lawsuits. Does it? We really need to review it."

When the City of Beckley passed a similar ordinance in early 2019, there were several key issues that raised the ire of conservative groups that could come up again -- including whether the measure would allow members of the opposite sex in restrooms and whether churches would be able to monitor membership.

Annie Moore

Multimedia Journalist

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