HENDERSON, WV (WOAY) – Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, today expressed great concern and disappointment with recent developments indicating Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and his leadership team appear to be working with liberal activists to pass legislation that would create a whole new means of bringing lawsuits against West Virginia employers, people who rent or sell homes, or anyone else who may be accused of being politically incorrect.
Sen. Carmichael has agreed to participate in a roundtable discussion to be held on Dec. 3 at the State Capitol to promote legislation called the “Fairness Act.” The report says that “participants will speak about how their individual experiences have moved them to support fairness for LGBT people.”
The legislation is expected to be modeled on bills that have been introduced in the Legislature in recent years that sponsors claim would ensure LGBTQ+ people can’t be discriminated against in the areas of employment, housing, or public accommodations. However, Delegate Butler said the real effects of the bill could have negative consequences for business owners and other citizens.
“This is a move that could give government officials and trial attorneys the ability to punish West Virginia citizens and employers for some obscure perceived gender related claim of discrimination,” he said.
Delegate Butler said one problem with the legislation stems from its use of the words “actual and perceived” in its definitions.
For example, House Bill 2078 from the 2019 regular session included the following language:
- (n) The term “gender identity” means the actual or perceived gender-related identity, expression, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.
- (o) The term “sexual orientation” means heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression, whether actual or perceived.
Delegate Butler said there are already laws on the books to protect people from discrimination.
“These newly proposed laws are not about equality, they set up a circumstance where certain people have special protections rather than equality,” he said.
“Ironically sexual orientation and gender identity laws, like some proposed, can open the door to other controversies where someone of a biological gender demands the right to compete in athletic events or other activities as a different gender, which usually tends to be a substantial disadvantage to women,” Delegate Butler said.
In 2016, the House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill – with wide bipartisan support – to protect people of faith from lawsuits brought on because of some perceived unfair treatment. That bill, however, died after Sen. Carmichael helped pass an amendment that basically reversed the intent of the legislation.
Delegate Butler added that the timing of this Fairness Act meeting is also unfortunate.
“It is troubling that this meeting is taking place just before Christmas at a time when Biblical principles, like the basic First Amendment right of freedom of religion that the United States was founded upon, are under attack from many directions,” Delegate Butler said.
“I should also point out these special protection bills are not only in conflict with the West Virginia Republican Party Platform, but more importantly, they are in conflict with the values of the vast majority of West Virginians,” he said.
Delegate Butler represents the 14th District in the House of Delegates, which includes parts of Mason and Putnam Counties.