Gay West Virginia Coal Miner Calls for Legislative Action

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Amid chanting supporters, a gay West Virginia coal miner called on the Legislature to add sexual orientation to state anti-discrimination laws Monday.

Speaking at a press conference, Sam Hall recounted a litany of verbal abuse, threats and vandalism he alleges occurred while he worked for Massey Energy Co. Hall filed a lawsuit against a Massey subsidiary and one of its officials last year. The Richmond, Va.-based coal producer has said it's investigating Hall's allegations.

"If the labor laws would have been amended earlier to contain sexual orientation discrimination, myself as well as other gay West Virginians would have not to endure such demeaning and inexcusable behavior," Hall said. "Why, as West Virginians, do you allow this type of behavior and harassment to occur and then go unpunished?"

Acting Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, joined Hall and dozens of supporters chanting "Stand with Sam." Kessler, the chief sponsor of a measure that would add sexual orientation to discrimination laws in the Senate, is running for governor this year.

Kessler called the legislation "a clear recognition that in this state all men and all women are created equal and have an opportunity to succeed and be happy if they play by the rules."

The West Virginia Family Foundation denounced the Senate bill and a companion version in the House as "catastrophic."

"What we have witnessed here today is a brazen and open promotion of the deviant behavior and lifestyle of homosexuality by elected leaders," President Kevin McCoy said in a statement. "These bills will require acceptance of homosexuality to be taught in West Virginia's public schools."

Fleischauer criticized McCoy's group for using the Bible to support discrimination.

"As I recall, the Bible was used to justify slavery. The Bible was used to justify control over women by their husbands," she said. "Opposing this law means that you are for discrimination."