What’s the key to growing communities in West Virginia?
We don’t think the answer is that much of a secret – most of you know what it is: Good jobs, passionate people, and loving communities.
We spend a lot of time talking about how to develop and grow those good jobs, and some time thinking about how we can retain and nurture our state’s talent.
However we don’t spend much time at all talking about what loving communities look like – or why they are so important.
But most of us know that building exclusionary communities – communities that discriminate and hate – is a race to the bottom for our towns.
Legislating Discrimination: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
We heard a lot about this last year. Remember all the great testimony speaking out against a bill proposing to ban local anti-discrimination ordinances, the “Interstate Commerce Improvement Act”?
And what about all the bills that went down in flames (including Uber, RIP) because clauses allowing them to discriminate were tacked on at the last minute?
Unfortunately it looks like the same broken record is being played again this year. The House introduced a bill on Tuesday called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (HB 4012). This bill would enable people to not follow local and state laws that they say are in conflict with their religion.
Does that sound familiar? It should because similar laws were introduced in 2014 and 2015, on both the Senate and House sides, but they failed to pass.
And it does seem to be on the fast track. A public hearing on the bill was held this morning. You’ll be able to watch a recording of that hearing at West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s legislative coverage YouTube channel.
Speaking Up for Loving Communities
Fairness WV released a video on Monday showcasing Democratic and Republican Senators and Delegates speaking out against LGTBQ discrimination.
While they don’t take a position on any legislation in this video, they do say some powerful words about the connection between equality, the law and economic development for our state.
Check it out – it’s a fascinating display of the support for equality cutting across party lines.
Despite a chorus speaking up in favor of non-discrimination protection, there continue to be coalitions in the Legislature working to dismantle and block discrimination prohibitions.
There are indications that the issue – though likely in a different form than SB 2881 – will reappear this year. It’s worth keeping an eye on.