As an openly queer chaplain who is serving at WVU Medicine, I was glad to read that faith leaders spoke about why their faith calls them to support the West Virginia Fairness Act at a roundtable at the Capitol on Dec. 3. The Fairness Act would ensure that LGBTQ West Virginians are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces. This comes as the Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling as early as January that could undermine federal LGBTQ employment nondiscrimination protections. Although West Virginia could still pass state protections (that also apply to housing and public spaces) even after the worst-case Supreme Court scenario, it would be better to protect all West Virginians as soon as possible.
Like the rabbi and the United Methodist pastor on the Fairness Act roundtable, I greatly appreciate how my Presbyterian church has taken steps toward support for LGBTQ people, which has been facilitated by many democratic structures. We vote for representatives and have a general assembly that meets annually to vote on big decisions. In the last 10-15 years, we voted to allow LGBTQ ministers to be ordained and changed the verbiage in our own policy that marriage was between two people. These changes have made tangible impacts on people’s experiences in the church. Our lawmakers at the capitol must do the same.
When I talk with people inside or outside the church who may not yet support LGBTQ people or nondiscrimination protections, the most important thing I can do is to let them get to know me and my heart and the goodness that exists within me. I encourage my fellow West Virginians to be open to this dialogue and to ultimately work toward passing the Fairness Act, and I urge our federal senators to finish the job by passing the Equality Act, which would protect all LGBTQ Americans.