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Group Finds Renewed Momentum in Anti-Discrimination Law

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There is a renewed effort by Fairness West Virginia to include sexual orientation to the Employment and Housing Non-Discrimination Act.

Coy Flowers, president of the Board of Directors for Fairness West Virginia, said the hope is to add the term sexual orientation to the legislation that already makes it illegal to discriminate against people for their race, religion, gender or age.

Members have launched an online blitz via social media with a campaign that says, "Hard Work Doesn't Discriminate." The group is getting its message out by sharing with readers that it is legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation.

Flowers says the group has been working on the issue for years, admitting there have been several failed attempts to make the change.

"(We've) been met with resistance in the past, but we've been able to create a culture where at least this conversation has been able to develop," he said.

So far, more than 7,500 signatures make up an online petition urging lawmakers to make a change. Flowers feels the momentum is different this time.

"It's a promoter of business," he said. "It actually decreases discrimination among employees and is generally a positive thing."

A jury found Jessica Hudson was fired from her job because she is gay.

Her attorney explained the civil suit was able to be brought in front of a jury, even though state law doesn't back it. That's because the discrimination ordinance in the city of Charleston includes sexual orientation.

In West Virginia, a judge can decide whether or not an ordinance can be considered substantial public policy.

Hudson knows she is now the poster child for this fight; it's a mission she is happy to tackle.

"I've always been taught to stand up for what you believe in, stand up for others, do what's right, and this is what's right," Hudson said.

Hudson, who came out at age, said an incredibly supportive family helped her make it through the civil trial. She said it also took a great deal of inner strength.

"My case it was a perfect example of that, that mindsets are shifting," Hudson said. "People are being more open-minded, whether it's because they have gotten to know someone or through their place of employment or a neighbor or someone they go to the gym with that's gay, and they realize that they are just like everybody else. And I think it takes something like that to change your mindset."

Hudson believes her case puts this issue on the front and center. She is hopeful lawmakers will choose to support adding this terminology to the already existing law.

"You should never have to go to work and have fear that who you choose to love could cost you your job," Hudson said. "You should never have to live in a home and know that who you choose to love could get you evicted. Or not let you move into your dream home or even rent a hotel room. It's crazy, it's crazy that is the world we live in."

WSAZ.com reached out to the West Virginia Family Foundation, a group that supports traditional family values, but had not heard anything back as of Tuesday night.


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