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House panel advances bill repealing local LGBT laws

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A House committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances over strong objections from Democrats and lobbyists who said the proposal amounted to “legislative gay bashing.”

House Bill 2881, called the West Virginia Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act, passed out of committee 16-8, with Democratic Delegate Rupie Phillips voting in favor of passage and Republican Delegate Chris Stansbury voting against.

The bill aims to make nondiscrimination laws across the state more uniform by prohibiting municipalities and political subdivisions from adopting nondiscrimination ordinances that don’t comport with state laws. But critics said the bill serves no other purpose than to suppress the rights of gay people.

“The only group this targets are gay people,” said Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson. “This is bad for business and sends a terrible signal to the world. I don’t know what a business like Procter and Gamble would think of the homophobia flowing out of the Capitol.”

According to the Human Rights Commission, only people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are not protected by state laws in regards to housing or employment. The housing section also discriminates against age, something committee counsel Tracy Webb argued allows for special housing for seniors.

Committee co-chairwoman Delegate Lynne Arvon, R-Raleigh, sponsored the bill. She said she was approached by mayors representing several cities who did not want to be forced to enact nondiscrimination clauses they disagree with…

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