HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s lawmakers once again have an opportunity to extend valuable protections to all of its citizens, this time via legislation that would broaden the state’s hate-crime law.
Current state law protects individuals and property from violence, or intimidation by threat of violence, based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex. As a court case originating in Cabell County concluded last year, the word “sex” applies to gender only. It does not protect people from violent acts or intimidation if the acts or threats relate to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Because of that gap, roughly 55,000 West Virginians lack the same protections as their fellow citizens in the Mountain State, based on polling released last year by Gallup regarding percentage of residents who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s a lot of people to be deemed as second class, under the provisions of state law as it now stands.
But a bill introduced in the current legislative session – HB 4281 – would remedy that by making the law applicable to people victimized because of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
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