Fairness Focused on Next Steps in Fight for Equality
The LGBT advocacy organization Fairness West Virginia held their annual conference in Charleston Saturday and this year, the group had plenty to celebrate.
After saying he would no longer fight an appeal to the state's gay marriage ban, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's decision essentially made the practice legal in the state and on Oct. 9, county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples across the state.
Fairness Executive Director Andrew Schneider said Saturday that's certainly something to celebrate, but the fight isn't yet over. Now, the organization is looking on to its next legislative battles.
The results of the mid-term elections were something many LGBT advocates expressed dismay about, but Schneider said the idea that his organization can't work with the new Republican leadership is a myth.
"We were more accustomed to working with Democrats, but we have always worked with Republicans," Schneider said. "With that said, we need to do a lot more outreach to Republicans now that they're in power."
Schneider said he thinks it's an easy sell. Republicans tend to be seen as business friendly, Schneider said, and bills that protect equality are attractive to businesses.
"This makes perfect economic sense," Schneider said. "You build a society that is just and inclusive and businesses will won't to relocate here because they can attract the best and brightest employees who want to live in a place that's inclusive for everyone."
Even so, Schneider recognizes his organization had trouble getting a bill passed to protect LGBT people both in housing and the workplace even when the Democrats controlled both houses at the state level.
This year, he said, he plans to work with cities to pass ordinances on the local level like Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown have.
“We’re going to build them from the ground up trying to get nondiscrimination ordinances passed in all corners of the state, in all communities and build the grassroots to the point where the state legislature can no longer ignore,” he said.
Those protections become even more necessary with marriage equality according to Schneider as homosexual couples begin to do the things heterosexual couples do, like bringing husbands or wives to company parties.