LGBTQ measure passes Va. Senate
Chamber passes workplace non-discrimination bill protecting sexual orientation, gender identity 24-16
The Virginia Senate approved legislation Friday to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer state employees from workplace discrimination by a vote of 24-16. The bill will now move forward to the House of Delegates.
The legislation, Senate Bill 701, was introduced last October by Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, and Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria. The bill extends workplace nondiscrimination policies to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. It also defines sexual orientation as “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression.”
Ebbin, the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly in state history, said he was enthusiastic about the prospects of the bill.
“We’re going to press forward with this momentum,” Ebbin said in a press release from Equality Virginia, an LGBTQ advocacy group. “No state employee should ever doubt Virginia’s commitment to equal opportunity employment for all.”
McEachin said he believed popular support would push the bill through the legislature. “SB701 is about fairness, and all Virginians deserve equal opportunity, justice and fairness,” he said in the press release. “The people must continue to lead the legislature and remind the House that Virginia is an open state and welcoming to all folks as we move this bill ahead.”
The bill received support from 46 additional co-patrons in both the Virginia House and Senate.
Senate Democratic Caucus spokesperson Joshua Karp said he saw the approval of the bill as a bipartisan victory. “Every time we’re able to forge a bipartisan coalition and make progress for LGBT rights is a victory in itself,” he said.
Previous attempts to push through legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation have been unsuccessful. The Virginia Senate passed a nearly identical bill in February 2011, but the bill died in the House General Laws subcommittee.
Karp said he hopes this time will be different. “I think Virginians by and large agree that nobody should be discriminated against for any reason,” he said. “I certainly hope that the House delegates pass it.”
Members of the University Queer Student Union commended the Virginia Senate for passing the bill. Fourth-year College student Wo Chan, QSU vice president, said it was a step in the right direction.
“I think Virginia definitely needs a bill like this,” Chan said. “I think every state needs a bill like this.”
Opponents of the bill were unavailable for comment when contacted.