West Virginia is always searching for ways to attract more people here and encourage our young people to stay, in hopes of growing our economy. So here is an easy one: Adopt the Fairness Act.
Again this year, the West Virginia Legislature is being asked to pass a bill that outlaws discrimination in employment, housing and other public spaces because of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The House bill has both Democrat and Republican sponsors, indicating that the legislation at least starts with some bipartisan support. That bodes well for possible passage.
Twenty-one states have already adopted full or partial protections for LGBTQ people, including neighboring Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. West Virginia could become the second southern state to pass a full protection law.
Fairness West Virginia, which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ issues, reports that 96 percent of Fortune 500 companies have LGBTQ-inclusive policies. Procter & Gamble, the giant private employer near Martinsburg, is a corporate leader on the issue.
P&G co-sponsored a study last year that “revealed high comfortability around viewing LGBTQ+ images in media, favorability towards brands with LGBTQ+ inclusive advertising, and that inclusive media images lead to greater acceptance and understanding.”
Another prominent West Virginia company, Kroger, received a perfect score on the 2021 Corporate Equality Index. It was rated one of the best places to work for LGBTQ equality for the third consecutive year.
Fairness West Virginia is right when it says, “Fairness is good for business.”
Our roots run deep in West Virginia. As our unofficial anthem says, “Country Roads, take me home, to the place, I belong. West Virginia.” For way too long, members of the LGBTQ community may have wondered whether they can call this home, whether they do belong here.
The answer is, of course they do, because they are us—our friends and neighbors, our children and relatives, our co-workers and classmates. Our West Virginia hospitality and sense of fairness, if they are our true values, cannot be conditional.
West Virginia has been in the national news a lot lately, the stories have been positive about how our state handled the virus and pushed out vaccines. Here is another opportunity to put our best foot forward simply by doing the right thing.
The Legislature could send a powerful message to the rest of the country, every business looking to expand or relocate, and every LGBTQ entrepreneur if the House and the Senate passed the Fairness Act overwhelmingly.
Or better yet, unanimously.