An overwhelming majority of West Virginians say they support granting gay and lesbians equal employment and housing rights, according to a new study by a national polling firm.
A recent poll by the Raleigh, N.C.-based firm Public Policy Polling found 68 percent of voters believe it should be illegal to deny gay, lesbian and transgender individuals a job or housing based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
West Virginia law currently allows sexual orientation and gender identity-based discrimination by employers, landlords and real estate agents.
Just 16 percent of respondents said the discrimination should remain legal, while 15 percent said they were not sure.
Public Policy Polling conducted the survey last week, polling 1,110 West Virginia voters through an automated telephone survey. The study's margin of error is 2.9 percent.
Bills to outlaw discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have failed in the last four legislative sessions.
The state Senate has passed anti-discrimination legislation on two occasions, but the bills have always died in House committees. They were never defeated outright; committee chairmen have declined to take up the legislation.
Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, the state's first openly gay lawmaker, sponsored a bill this year that would make it illegal for businesses, landlords or real estate agents to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.
But in March, Skinner asked the House Economic Development and Small Business Committee to leave the bill off its agenda, saying not enough lawmakers were ready to support the measure.
"There are very few people on either side who believe gay people should be discriminated against. However, can they push the button?" Skinner said at the time. "Those are two different things."
He plans to reintroduce the bill in the 2014 session, however, and believes the Public Policy Polling results show support for the legislation is only growing.