Some lawmakers say passing legislation protecting gays and lesbians against housing and workplace discrimination is not a Democrat or a Republican issue.
"I think it's a generational thing," said Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha.
Skaff is chairman of the House of Delegates' Economic Development and Small Business Committee.
Right now, it's legal in West Virginia to fire or evict someone simply because he or she is gay or lesbian. The bill would change that. While the anti-discrimination bill has not been introduced in the House yet — it is expected in the next few days — House Speaker Rick Thompson last year referred a similar bill to Skaff's committee.
Skaff did not put it on the committee's agenda, however, because he did not believe there was enough support for the measure.
That might change this year.
The committee now contains 14 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Skaff said the bill would likely lose a few Democrat votes and gain a few Republicans but probably would pass.
"I think it's close," Skaff said Tuesday. "It passes, barely."
He said the bill likely would survive its second committee, the House Judiciary Committee, as well. The real showdown would be on the floor vote.
"Right now, I think it's safe to say we have a lot of work to do if we want to pass this amongst the whole House," he said.
"Everyone thinks it's the right thing to do," Skaff said, but some older lawmakers are nervous to support the legislation because they are worried what their constituents back home would think. He said younger delegates are willing to "put party politics aside to do what's right."
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, said he agrees with Skaff. He said the incoming crop of 21 new delegates has injected fresh blood into the House, and those younger members see gay rights legislation as a part of a historical trajectory.
"A hundred years ago, we were talking about women. Fifty years ago, we were talking about civil rights," he said.
Today, the nation is grappling with a new battle for gays and lesbians, Sponaugle said.