Early this week I learned about a meeting that concerns me greatly. It should concern all West Virginians because it was advocating for a new law that could put everyone in jeopardy of being sued for something that someone thinks you think; yes confusing I know. This is in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation. Language in recent bills introduced in West Virginia include definitions which base charges on alleged discrimination for terms “actual or perceived.” This type of legislation is often labeled as advocating for fairness or equality; it actually seeks to give special protections to a particular group.
The meeting was to be held Tuesday; on Monday I submitted a press release to shed some light on this meeting and this subject. The following is that press release in a different format, and with a bit more information.
I am greatly concerned and disappointed that Senate president Carmichael and his leadership team appear to be working with liberal activists to pass legislation to create a whole new means of bringing lawsuits against West Virginia employers, people who rent of sell homes, or anyone who may not be politically correct. This would be 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. Yes, in recent bills the definitions actually uses the words “actual and perceived.”
According to a WVVA News report dated November 25, 2019 Senator Carmichael has agreed to participate in a roundtable discussion to be held on December 3rd at the State Capitol. The report said that “participants will speak about how their individual experiences have moved them to support fairness for LGBT people.” Notably, although it is well known that this is an important issue to pro faith and family organizations in West Virginia, to my knowledge, Senator Carmichael had made no effort to include or consult them up to the point of my press release.
Of course, we all support equality and fairness, but this type of legislation is not about equality and fairness at all; it sets up circumstances where certain people have special protections. Additionally, this legislation is unnecessary because we already have laws against discrimination, and a federal agency already exists that specializes in alleged discrimination against LGBT people.
Another aspect of this is the fact that sexual orientation and gender identity laws can contribute to controversies where someone of a biological gender demands the right to compete in athletic events, or other activities, as a different gender, which is usually a substantial disadvantage to women.
In 2016, I was glad to be able to join with a large bipartisan majority of WV House members to pass House Bill 4012, available online at http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB4012%20SUB%20ENG.htm&yr=2016&sesstype=RS&i=4012. This would have protected people of faith from lawsuits brought on because of some perceived unfair treatment. That bill died in the Senate when Senator Carmichael helped pass an amendment that basically reversed the intent of the legislation.
It also troubles me that this meeting is taking place just before Christmas at a time when Biblical principles, and the basic First Amendment right of freedom of religion that the United States was founded upon, are under attack from many directions. I would also like to point out that a bill like this in in conflict with the West Virginia Republican Platform, but more importantly bills like this are in conflict with the values of the vast majority of West Virginians.
I have been honored to represent the people of Mason and Putnam Counties in the House of Delegates for seven years and I greatly appreciate your prayers which I need more than ever now. Issues like this are a very large part of the reason I have decided to run for the Senate in 2020.
Jim Butler (R-Gallipolis Ferry) represents the 14th district in the West Virginia House of Delegates.