W.Va.'s First Openly Gay Lawmaker Reflects on First Session, Jason Collins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia Delegate Stephen Skinner represents the 67th District, but he's made state history as its first openly gay lawmaker.

"My time in Charleston has been surprisingly easy," Skinner said Tuesday during an interview on Skype. "I've not had from my colleagues in the Legislature anything but encouragement and respect."

His statement could be surprising, considering lawmakers in West Virginia have never passed anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation.

Despite a major effort this legislative session from the group Fairness West Virginia, which Skinner founded, he asked to have the measure he sponsored pulled.

"When we get to the point that we can pass it, it needs to be the right bill and it can't be watered down and made ineffective by amendments," he explained.

Skinner said he supports the idea of Home Rule, a law that gives municipalities more control at the local level. However, he voted against the bill when amendments that included marriage and gun restrictions were added.

"We need to see substantive cooperation on a bipartisan basis and the Home Rule bill this year was a victim of shenanigans, and it's very disappointing," Skinner said.

Skinner is now back home practicing law at his family firm. Despite any setbacks he says he is incredibly optimistic about the future of the state he loves.

"I hear a lot from kids, kids who happen to be gay or lesbian and their friends thanking me for doing what I am doing, and that helps me during the hard spots when we don't find the path to equality and fairness as easily as we would hope," he said.

"My job is to be a part of the process, to form relationships with people in the Legislature to get good work done, regardless of the topic, and that is something I think I have done this first session."

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