|Committee Substitute for House Bill 5243, which creates the Women’s Bill of Rights, prompted a lengthy discussion Monday in the House Judiciary Committee prior to its passage.
As described by Counsel, the bill clarifies discrimination laws by maintaining “safety, privacy, and fairness.”
Delegate Shawn Fluharty of Ohio County asked Counsel about the phrase in the bill, “Equal does not mean the same or identical.”
“What does that mean?” he asked.
Counsel responded that it came from a Virginia Military Institute case in Virginia that stated there are inherent differences between men and women.
Delegate Fluharty went on to ask whether the bill provides the right to equal pay or affordable child care.
Counsel responded that it does not.
“What actual rights are we guaranteeing here?” Delegate Fluharty asked.
Counsel responded again, “Safety, privacy, and fairness.”
Delegate Evan Hansen of Monongalia County said the “so-called” bill of rights also applies to cities and counties because it includes “instrumentalities of the state” in its language. He also expressed concern that the bill would impact or possibly override the Human Rights Act.
Because of the length of discussion, the Chairman moved the bill to the foot of the agenda and took it up again at the conclusion of other bills.
An amendment from Delegate David Kelly of Tyler County passed. It would prohibit sex discrimination pertaining to male or female.
Delegate Joey Garcia of Marion County proposed an amendment that would insert the entirety of HB4272, the Katherine Johnson Equal Pay Act, into the bill. Chairman Tom Fast of Fayette County ruled the amendment not germane. His ruling was sustained by a vote requested by Delegate Garcia.
Delegate Fluharty spoke in opposition of the bill, saying it does very little for women but what it does allow data collection on public school children without parental permission.
In the final voice vote, the Chairman mistakenly said the “No” votes prevailed. He put the bill “back on the table” for a revote and passage.