For the first time in state history, gay and lesbian students will be protected from being bullied while at school after the West Virginia Board of Education unanimously adopted a new anti-bullying policy. Punishments for harassment can range from detention to suspension from school for 10 days; and the policy will go into effect July 1. Bradley Milam, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, called the board’s approval a major victory for civil rights in the state. “We all know that students are targeted because of physical appearance, disability, or perceived sexual orientation every day in schools all across West Virginia,” said Milam. “This policy will ensure that these kinds of bullying incidents and many others will decrease. This could make all the difference in the world to students across West Virginia who are bullying victims.” In adopting this policy, West Virginia joins a number of states that have created statewide guidelines recommending districts to protect GLBT students from harassment.
A W.Va. group that promotes fair treatment of GLBT residents, has launched a new campaign with hopes of creating effective anti-bullying policies in the state. Fairness West Virginia has partnered with the ACLU of W.Va. for the campaign, named West Virginia Bully-Free. “It is a campaign that will show the public as well as policymakers that we need to have a much more effective policy here,” Fairness WV Program Director Bradley Milam said. Even though West Virginia Bully-Free is a statewide campaign, Milam said, “we’re also focusing on local policies as well.” At one school, in 2009, school board members removed the words “sexual orientation” from a proposed revision to its diversity policy. Fairness WV lobbied to include the words in the policy changes, while officials with the W.Va. Family Foundation and the Family Policy Council of W.Va. argued against it.
[via The Charleston Gazette]
According to West Virginia’s Sam Hall [pictured], he attempted to play the manly man while at work in the coal mines, but other workers found out he’s gay – and they began to harass him.
A lawsuit Hall filed against his former employer (a Massey Energy subsidiary) says he faced homophobia. Now, Hall is pushing for state legislation to protect West Virginians from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Mr. Hall received taunts, threats of violence and vandalism to his car.
Hall’s set to appear at a Capitol news conference with the group Fairness West Virginia to endorse two bills (SB226 and HB2045) that would add sexual orientation to the state’s existing civil-rights laws, which already cover race, gender, religion and other characteristics. The legislation is meant to prevent discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations such as hotels and restaurants.
The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday that a lesbian couple should have custody of an 18-month old foster child, overturning a judge’s order that the girl should be placed with a heterosexual couple who might adopt her.
The court barred enforcing and earlier ruling by Judge Paul Blake Jr. – which said that the girl should be taken away from Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess. The girl has remained in the couple’s custody throughout the court proceedings.
The Supreme Court noted there was no reason to believe the girl wasn’t thriving with Hess and Kutil, and said there was no legal reason to take her away from the couple.
“As a matter of fact, the court was never presented with any actual evaluation of the home or evidence of the quality of the relationship” the girl had with Kutil and Hess, the justices said. “All indications thus far are that (the girl) has formed a close emotional bond and nurturing relationship with her foster parents, which can not be trivialized or ignored.”
West Virginia state law doesn’t allow same-sex couples to adopt children, but single people can.
The state Supreme Court will decide whether a baby girl will stay with the lesbian couple in Fayette County that wants to adopt her.
On Tuesday, the Family Policy Council of West Virginia filed a friend of the court brief asking the Supreme Court to side with the lower court ruling.
“The state should do everything it can to make sure that kids are placed in a home with a married mom and dad. The law is simple and it is very clear when it comes to adoption,” says Jeremy Dys, President and General Counsel for the Family Policy Council of West Virginia.
The child had originally been placed in foster care with Kathryn Kutil and Cheryl Hess after being born to a drug addicted mother in late 2007. The Department of Health and Human Resources had approved the couple for foster care.
The lesbian couple now has custody of the young girl pending the outcome of the appeal the state Supreme Court is considering.
In the appeal, attorneys for the couple say the Fayette County judge is setting a ‘dangerous precedent’ for discriminatory treatment of nontraditional families.
A West Virginia couple has taken its case to the state Supreme Court, arguing that their daughter should not be taken from their home because they are gay.
The Charleston Daily Mail reported that Cheryl Hess and Kathryn Kutil appealed a decision, made by Judge Paul Burke of the lower Fayette Circuit court.
The baby was born Dec. 8, 2007 in Charleston to a drug abusing mother, according to court records. She had cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines in her system and underwent withdrawals from the drugs after birth.
The father of the girl was unknown and Department of Health and Human Resources could not find any blood relatives to take her in, so the agency placed the girl with Kutil and Hess on Christmas Eve, the day she was released from the hospital.
The couple is approved by the DHHR as foster and adoptive parents, the petition says. Kutil recently adopted a 12-year-old girl whom she’d been fostering for over two years.
The Fayette circuit court terminated the biological mother’s parental rights in a Nov. 6 order, making the infant eligible for adoption.
Previously, the child’s legal advocate, had filed a motion with the court to remove the girl from the same-sex home. That motion had been pending since Jan. 24.
The American Surrogacy Center [TASC] provides a very positive analysis of legal surrogacy in West Virginia. TASC says:
“West Virginia is a surrogacy-friendly state. Some states have a great deal of law on the subject of surrogacy – either from state statutes or appellate court cases. Other states have no law, which leaves the question up in the air. West Virginia has only one sentence in its law which is incredibly significant.”
Indeed, West Virginia adoption legislation adds one exception not usually found in the adoption statutes of other states. One section provides the additional exception for: “Fees and expenses included in any agreement in which a woman agrees to become a surrogate mother.”
The bottom line is – surrogacy is legal in West Virginia.
“If a surrogate lives in West Virginia and delivers the baby in West Virginia, she can be paid for her services.”
The American Surrogacy Center says the District of Columbia is very unfriendly toward surrogacy.
TASC says the law states: “Surrogate parenting contracts are prohibited and rendered unenforceable in the District. Any person or entity who or which is involved in, or induces, arranges, or otherwise assists in the formation of a surrogate parenting contract for a fee, compensation, or other remuneration, or otherwise violates this section, shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.”
However, D.C. residents are free to travel to any state that does not legally prohibit surrogacy. In other words – the District’s unfriendliness toward surrogacy does not mean that residents there cannot benefit from surrogacy in a “friendly” state.
The District is surrounded by surrogacy friendly states. TASC reports that surrogacy is not prohibited in Virginia, West Virginia, or Maryland.