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West Virginia blocks sexual orientation discrimination protections for jurors

West Virginia blocks sexual orientation discrimination protections for jurors

People can continue to be excluded from jury selection on the grounds of their sexuality in the US state of West Virginia after lawmakers voted down a bill that would have seen them protected in courtrooms.

West Virginia has one of the poorest gay rights records of any US state and if passed, the bill would have been the first time that any kind of legal protection was extended to LGBT people.

Democratic Delegate Stephen Skinner (pictured) had added a clause which would have stopped courts eliminating jurors based on their sexuality to a bill disqualifying convicted felons from serving on juries.

West Virginians can already not be disqualified from jury duty based on their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, economic status or disability but the bill was voted down anyway despite West Virginia Democrats having substantial majorities in both the state House and Senate.

The bill was approved by the West Virginia House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in a vote of 17-6 but was defeated 59-38 in the House of Delegates.

Delegate Skinner had previously sought to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment in West Virginia.

LGBT West Virginians can legally be fired, evicted or denied services for being LGBT, cannot adopt, have no legal recognition of their relationships and the state has banned same-sex marriage.

A bill to create civil unions in the state was introduced in February last year but died without a vote.

In January California Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis re-introduced legislation which would prevent LGBT people from being excluded from juries based on their sexual orientation or gender identity nation wide with the support of 14 co-sponsors.

‘Serving on a jury is one of America’s most cherished civic duties,’ Davis said in a statement.

‘It is unjust to exclude a particular group of people from participating in civil society because of whom they love or what they look like. The federal government already prohibits juror discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and economic status and as we pursue greater equality for all Americans, I believe LGBT Americans should be also be free from juror discrimination.’