Yesterday the Virginia Senate passed the “Virginia Values Act”, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the commonwealth’s anti-discrimination law, with a 30-9 vote.
The Bill (SB 868 in Senate and HB 1663 in the House), makes sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in regards to discrimination for things such as housing, employment, and other public accommodations. It also gives the attorney general the power to prosecute anyone “engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance” to the rights guaranteed by the new law. While the bill still must be passed in the opposite chamber and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam, the bill has received bipartisan support and will almost certainly be passed very soon.
The ACLU and other human rights groups such as Equality Virginia, which has led the fight for codified equality on behalf of Virginia’s LGBTQ Community are ecstatic at the probable passing of the bill. Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, said there is “much to celebrate” at the organization’s annual lobby event, despite being “cautiously optimistic” at the beginning of the legislative session.
There are multiple other bills supported by the LGBTQ community currently in the Virginia Legislative Session. This includes SB 245, which bans practice of conversion therapy for patients under the age of 18, SB 657 making it easier to change a person’s name and gender on a birth certificate, and SB 161 regarding the creation and implementation of policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in Virginia public schools, among a few others.
This is a historic move as Virginia will be the first southern state to enact any type of legislation that will protect the LGBTQ community.
Sources: WHSV3 2/6/20; Virginia’s Legislative Information System 2/6/20