CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia has its eyes on a number of bills this legislative session that would protect individuals from discrimination and help combat the drug crisis.

A bill in the House of Delegates would protect against discrimination for LGBTQ people involving employment, housing and public accommodations.

Joseph Cohen, executive director of the ACLU WV, said these groups are still targeted.

“The most recent statistics from the FBI are that 25 percent of hate crimes nationally have been targeting people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, so I think we have to agree on the facts here that LGBTQ are still discriminated against in this country,” Cohen said on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Fairness WV, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, is focused on mandating fair housing and ending discrimination in the workplace. Andrew Schneider, Fairness WV executive director, was also a guest on “Talkline.”

“I think it’s great that more and more people are coming around to recognizing that there needs to be these protections, but the very fact that people recognize that these protections are necessary are a result that there have been many recent incidences of discrimination,” Schneider said.

ACLU WV is also looking at drug related bills this session. Cohen said addiction needs to be treated like a disease.

“We think it’s wrong-headed to ramp up the war on drugs. Addiction is an illness. It needs to treated as such. It’s not a weakness,” he said. “We need to use rehabilitation and treatment.”

The state needs more treatment facilities so these addicts can heal, Cohen said.

“I just don’t think there’s any way we’re going to stop the scourge of addiction by focusing on the supply. We need to focus on the demand — the users themselves and heal those people,” he said.

The 2017 Regular Legislative Session closes April 8.

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