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Fairness Pennsylvania Overseers Employ Anti-Women’s Rights, MAGA Cultist; Harass Other LGBTQ Leaders & Teens

A history of harassment, financial shakedowns, misgendering, and retaliation plague Fairness West Virginia Leadership

Fairness West Virginia via Facebook.

The leadership of Fairness Pennsylvania, a new statewide start-up meant to advocate for the LGBTQ community in Harrisburg — which QBurgh previously reported is run out of West Virginia as a subsidiary of Fairness West Virginia — has a history of financial shakedowns of smaller LGBTQ organizations and employs an anti-women’s rights, anti-gun safety, Republican lobbyist, say LGBTQ advocates in West Virginia with firsthand experience with the organization.

In emails, screenshots, and submitted testimonies obtained by QBurgh, Fairness West Virginia board members, staff, and Executive Director Andrew Schneider are also accused of hiding tax records, sexual harassment, deliberate misgendering, and making trans and non-binary teens and high school students feel “uncomfortable” and “traumatized”.

“Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider has a troubling reputation here in West Virginia,” says Ash Orr, founder of Morgantown Pride. “Andrew is not a safe person for marginalized communities to be around.”

“[Fairness Pennsylvania] are trying to distance themselves from Fairness West Virginia, which would be laughable if it weren’t so toxic — and demeaning to the intelligence of Pennsylvanians. It’s in fact legally Fairness West Virginia and not a separate entity,” said Jason Landau Goodman, Chair of Pennsylvania Youth Congress and long-time LGBTQ lobbyist in Harrisburg. State records from West Virginia indicate that “Fairness Pennsylvania” is the fictitious business name for Fairness West Virginia, Inc. “Fairness Pennsylvania” is a registered foreign business according to Pennsylvania state records. The board of directors and staff of Fairness West Virginia are the board of directors and staff of Fairness Pennsylvania because it is the same business entity.

Starting as early as January 2023, Fairness began to employ as their lobbyist Joshua Higginbotham, a Republican former West Virginia State delegate, who OnlySky Media described as a Trump-supporting, conservative Christian, MAGA cultist. [“Higginbotham] routinely supports batshit crazy legislation. He’s anti-women’s rights, anti-gun safety, etc,” reported OnlySky in 2021.

As a state delegate, Higginbotham was vehemently anti-abortion and Fairness West Virginia’s association with him raised alarm bells for the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia, the state’s only remaining abortion provider until September 2022 when West Virginia banned the procedure. “I am deeply disturbed that a notorious anti-abortion former delegate was hired as a lobbyist at Fairness WV,” wrote Women’s Health Center of West Virginia Executive Director Katie Quinonez in an email to Fairness WV/PA Executive Director Andrew Schneider obtained by QBurgh.

“Numerous lesbian, queer, and trans West Virginians have communicated to me directly that they have felt dismissed and deprioritized by Fairness WV – that [the] organization does not advocate for LGBTQIA West Virginians, but instead favors white cis gay men,” Quinonez wrote before concluding that the “Women’s Health Center of West Virginia cannot in good conscience continue in a collaborative partnership with Fairness WV.”

Among the 20-plus testimonies obtained by QBurgh, a common theme arises of financial pressure campaigns and tactics used by Schneider on other LGBTQ advocates and allies. Daily phone calls, suggested payment plan schemes, and pressure was put on small-town Pride organizers and LGBTQ community volunteers. “It was at that moment that I realized this organization did not truly care about our community—it was all about money,” said Ash Orr. “Andrew only calls me when he needs money,” says one trans student wishing to remain anonymous. “I do not trust Andrew or Fairness West Virginia to have the best interest of the LGBTQ community in mind. We are just a money grab opportunity,” wrote another.

Multiple trans and non-binary students and youth report feeling pressured, used, and traumatized after attending a Fairness West Virginia lobbying day overseen by MAGA Republican Joshua Higginbotham.

“My child attended Fairness Lobby Day,” writes Marissa, the parent of a trans student. “They left our house that morning excited to see their peers and allies speaking out for the LGBTQIA community. When they arrived home from school, they were in tears and clearly distraught from the day. They stated that they were incredibly uncomfortable around their chaperone, Joshua.”

“Every dollar that is sent to Fairness West Virginia for their hostile takeover of LGBTQ advocacy in our state is offensive and damaging to the real work advancing LGBTQ inclusion in Pennsylvania,” said Landau Goodman. “We know of no one in Pennsylvania who asked for this. They came here with their own motives to find hosts they could use.”

“The Fairness West Virginia board is fully informed of these testimonies and concerns, yet they have chosen to remain silent,” says Orr. Repeated calls to Fairness West Virginia from QBurgh for comment went unanswered.

Jim Sheppard is a resident of Downtown Pittsburgh. Jim served as a Commissioner on the City of Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission which investigates instances of discrimination in the City of Pittsburgh and recommends necessary protections in our City Code to provide all people in Pittsburgh with equal opportunities. He has worked for Pittsburgh City Council, the Pittsburgh Mayor, and the Allegheny County Controller. For five years he was the President of the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. (He / Him / His)