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Senate Bill 111 - Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

Photo of Nathanial Kuratomi

In many states, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell that effectively legalized gay marriage, legislatures and municipalities have sought to enact legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in a variety of contexts. West Virginia Senate Bill 111, introduced on January 13, 2016, seeks to amend the West Virginia Human Rights Act and the West Virginia Fair Housing Act to include "sexual orientation" amongst the various protected classes identified in those anti-discrimination measures.

Generally speaking, the West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and in places of public accommodation on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability, or familial status. Similarly, the West Virginia Fair Housing Act prohibits the refusal to sell or rent housing on the same bases. If enacted, S.B. 111 would prohibit discrimination in employment or in housing on the basis of "sexual orientation," or as the bill defines it, on the basis of "heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression, whether actual or perceived." The final portion of the definition tracks the language of other anti-discriminatory measures in that the proposed legislation would not only prohibit discrimination against an individual because of his or her actual sexual orientation, but would also prohibit discrimination based on an employer's or seller/lessor's perception of that individual's sexual orientation.

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