By Justin Murphy

West Virginia constituents gathered beneath the gold dome of the Capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia on Friday afternoon, February 24, 2023, for a public hearing for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (House Bill 2545).

The proposed RFRA bill would limit the state government’s ability to intervene on matters pertaining to religious beliefs which many fear will provide a license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom. Members of the LGBTQIA+, Jewish, and pro-choice communities spoke about being fearful that they would be denied services due to someone else’s religious beliefs and would have no recourse as it would be protected by law while individuals from Christian communities spoke about the necessity of RFRA due to perceived persecution despite the fact that religion is already protected under the First Amendment.

Huntington resident and activist, Samuel Greene, made his third trip of the week up to the Capitol on Friday to make a statement against the bill. Samuel says, “Hi, my name is Samuel Greene and I am the Vice President of Huntington Pride and cofounder of the West Virginia Trans Coalition. More specifically, I am 21 years old, a social work student at Marshall, and I am a son, a brother, an uncle, and husband. I love West Virginia. I grew up here. But I am trans and I am queer and this building threatens my ability to live here and live the life that I’ve been trying to live.”

When the hearing comes to a close the tally of those in favor of the bill comes to 7 and those opposing it comes to 37. The House will vote on the bill and if passed it will make its way to the Senate.

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