The following is an open letter from the Board of Directors of Generation New River Gorge to the West Virginia State Legislators who sponsored and supported House Bill 4012, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
To our elected officials and representatives of the New River Gorge region:
Generation New River Gorge (Gen NRG) is a regional chapter of Generation West Virginia (Gen WV), a statewide organization working to attract and retain young talent throughout West Virginia. Gen NRG represents the counties of Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers.
Gen NRG’s Board of Directors unanimously opposes HB 4012, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” and wanted to publicly address the bill’s lead sponsor, Delegate John O’Neal (R-Raleigh), along with Delegate Roy Cooper (R-Summers), Delegate Rick Moye (D-Raleigh), Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh), Delegate Lynne Arvon (R-Raleigh), Delegate Jordan Hill (R-Nicholas), Delegate David Perry (D-Fayette), Delegate Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), and Delegate Tom Fast (R-Fayette) who also voted for this bill.
Our Board believes that every representative has a responsibility to those who elected them, as well as those whose futures they represent. In this case both groups have been deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the actions of those who speak on their behalf.
We also publicly reject the comments of Delegate Fast regarding a non-discrimination amendment proposed for HB 4228, the Uber Bill. Delegate Fast’s words were dangerously inaccurate and uncomfortably similar to the decades of slander this country fought hard to move past.
Our struggling state deserves profound, educated, and objective solutions. Not only were these words shameful, but they can cause irreparable damage to our state’s reputation and those who reside within.
The New River Gorge region is rich with welcoming, successful entrepreneurs who have demonstrated that business is best when discrimination based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation is nonexistent. We should strive to make sure that all people are welcome and encouraged to explore this unique area we call home.
In 2015, the Pew Research Center stated over 70 percent of Americans born after 1980 support gay marriage. With so many other pressing issues facing our region and state, the persecution of the LGBT community is completely counter to the views of Millenials and Generation Z as well as Generation X. These are the exact same people that West Virginia is fighting relentlessly to attract and retain.
It is time for our representatives to realize living in the past will only worsen the exodus of West Virginia’s young professionals.
Younger generations will continue to flock to areas that embrace innovation and where every citizen is treated with dignity. We call for our legislature to leave bigotry behind, and for all members to show up and represent the people of our great state with open, educated, bipartisan hearts and minds.
Half a session still remains to re-focus on issues like our historical budget deficit, crumbling infrastructure, floundering entrepreneurs, and struggling education system.
We hope our elected officials remember that Millennials are now the largest eligible voting population – just over one quarter of the country’s populace according to the United States Census Bureau. Our memories are not short and we will seek out those who represent our beliefs and dreams.
Gen NRG encourages our fellow citizens to let their voices be heard. Write your representatives, call them with concerns, and, above all else, remember these conversations when you are in the voting booth this November.
Gen NRG Board of Directors.