Today, HRC and Fairness West Virginia, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, sounded the alarm on a new, shameful anti-LGBT bill (HB 4012) being pushed in the West Virginia state legislature that would put LGBT people — and West Virginians of all walks of life — at risk for discrimination. HB 4012 advanced in a committee, late yesterday by a vote of 16-9, one of several anti-LGBT bills introduced this session in the West Virginia legislature.
HB 4012 would allow any person to claim their religious beliefs excuse them from following any state or local law. Not only could the bill allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, the broadly-written bill would go even further, putting all minority communities at risk for discrimination.
“Freedom of religion is a core American value, which is exactly why it is already protected by the First Amendment,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “HB 4012 is vague and a recipe for abuse and frivolous lawsuits, flooding the courts with expensive legal challenges that will take years to resolve. Not only would HB 4012 put LGBT people at risk for discrimination, but it would go even further, allowing a person to use HB 4012 as a defense against child abuse or allow a pharmacist to argue he is not required to give birth control to a woman.”
“The passage of HB 4012 would be an unmitigated disaster for West Virginia, said Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of Fairness WV. "In an economic climate in which the state already suffers from a 340 million dollar budget deficit, consideration of this anti-business, pro-discrimination bill simply defies reason.”
A brand new survey released recently shows that a similar religious refusal bill in Indiana cost the state as much as $60 million in convention revenue alone from lost business. The survey from “Visit Indy” found that “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.”
The attacks on fairness and equality in West Virginia are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking over 150 anti-LGBT bills in 27 states. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature. HB 4012 is among three bills pending in the state legislature that would allow individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people.