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W.Va. House scraps bills to prohibit jury discrimination against gays

W.Va. House scraps bills to prohibit jury discrimination against gays

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bid that would have prohibited discrimination against gays and lesbians in jury selection in West Virginia failed in the state House.

The House of Delegates voted 38-59 Friday to defeat a committee amendment on the subject.

The bill would include sexual orientation among the factors that courts cannot use to eliminate potential jurors. Currently courts cannot ban jurors based on race, color, religion, sex, nation of origin, economic status or disability.

The amendment passed in the House Judiciary Committee earlier in the week by a vote of 17-6 over Republican opposition.

Several Republican delegates who voted against the amendment said they were caught off guard because the amendment was not closely related to the original bill. They also said they didn’t know that there was currently a problem that needed addressing.

Del. Stephen Skinner (D-Jefferson, W.Va.) has offered the sexual orientation amendment to a bill aimed at disqualifying jurors who have been convicted of felonies.

Previously, Skinner has unsuccessfully sought to bar housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) re-introduced the Juror Non-Discrimination Act, federal legislation that would prohibit a person from being removed from a jury because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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