Virginia Lawmakers Pass Comprehensive LGBTQ Protections

February 7, 2020by Marie Albiges,The Virginian-Pilot (TNS)
Spencer Geiger, center, stands with Roger Roman, both of Virginia Beach, Va., with those in support of gay marriage as a hearing in Norfolk Federal Court on the constitutionality of the Virginia law goes on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. (Adrin Snider/Newport News Daily Press/TNS)

RICHMOND, Va. — Advocates for people who identify as LGBTQ cheered Thursday as Virginia’s General Assembly passed comprehensive legislation protecting them from discrimination in housing, employment and public spaces.

“This is a historic day and bright moment for the whole country as Virginia prepares to become the first southern state to ensure full, comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans, in a statement.

The omnibus bill by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, that passed in the Senate Thursday prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas of employment, public places, credit and housing. An identical bill, introduced by Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, also passed in the House Thursday.

“Today we took another giant step along the path towards a more equal and just Virginia,” Sickles said in a statement after the vote. Lawmakers were wearing heart-shaped rainbow LGBTQ stickers on the floor.

Dubbed the “Virginia Values Act,” the bill prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from firing or refusing to hire people because of their gender identity or sexual orientation or because they are pregnant. It also adds marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and status as a veteran to the list of ways private employers with SIX to 14 employees can’t discriminate.

All state and local government employees and school board employees will also be covered, even if the agency they work for has fewer than six employees.

The bill also creates a way for the person being discriminated against to file a civil lawsuit, or have the attorney general sue.

Opponents of LGBTQ anti-discrimination bills, including many religious groups, say they would unfairly force people to go against their religious beliefs and viewpoints or face a lawsuit. They say the legislation would allow biological males who identify as female to use the same bathrooms as females, or force women’s shelters to accept transgender women.

“In virtually every situation involving nondiscrimination laws based on one’s ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity,’ they result in intolerant applications that punish people of sincere religious faith who hold biblical and historic views on marriage and sexuality,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation.

If Gov. Ralph Northam signs the bill— and he’s indicated he will — the changes go into effect July 1.

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©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

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