Virginia continues to lag behind when it comes to protections for LGBTQ citizens meaning you can still be not hired, fired, kicked out of your home or denied service because of who you love. And while there’s plenty of work being done to make it harder to be gay in the commonwealth, some legislators are doing what they can to help out.
The most common issue that has been going on is providing protections in public employment. Bills SB12, sponsored by Virginia’s only openly gay Senator Adam Ebbin (D-30), aims to put those protections in place. Public employees are those who work for the state. Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order expanded protections to LGBTQ state employees on his first day in office, but without a law like SB12, the next governor could easily undo this.
“The idea is that we have certainty in the code over Virginia,” said Ebbin in an interview with GayRVA back in December, 2014. “This is a policy matter, and not subject to the whim of different governors.”
In the House, Republican Ron A. Villanueva returns this session with another public employment protection bill, HB 429.
In a rare turn of events for politics in the commonwealth, Villanueva joined with Delegate Kenneth R. Plum (D-36) to show bi-partisan support for on this LGBTQ issue.
“In today’s day and age, we recognize new categories…” said Villanueva, defending his bill before last year’s General Laws committee. “The military has advanced programs on this, as well as federal and private employers who have taken leadership on this. And we’re asking VA to take leadership and promote it the Virginia way.”
Sadly/obviously the bill failed and was left on the table.
HB179 from Del Kaye Kory (D – 38), and HB1005 from Del. Mark Levine (D-45) both go a step further than the earlier mentioned bills and not only aim to provide protections for public employees, but employees of private businesses as well.
This also isn’t the first time such bills hoping to stem discrimination against LGBTQ employees have been introduced. Last year, SB785 managed to pass a full senate vote only to be killed in a House subcommittee with a 6 to 1 vote.
Del. Todd Gilbert, author of this year’s big religious freedom’s bill which would do the opposite of these protection bills, spoke out against employment protections back in 2013 saying “there has not been a single example of someone who has been discriminated against in public employment.”
As far as housing protections, SB67, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-33), adds denying housing on the basis of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity as an unlawful housing practice.
Delegate Marcus Simon (D-53) returns to the House with a similar housing bill this session,HB 300. The defeat of his housing protections bill last year was particularly sad after he worked with Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia (HOME) to provide startling statistics around inequalities LGBTQ people face when looking for a place to live.
According to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, same-sex couples experienced discrimination 16 percent of the time when seeking rental housing.
A HUD study found adverse treatment is found primarily in the form of same-sex couples receiving fewer responses to the e-mail inquiry than heterosexual couples, and while “no clearcut pattern exists in the magnitude of adverse treatment by metropolitan market size,” discrimination exists in all metropolitan areas.
The National Center for Transgender Equality found that one in five transgender people in the U.S. have been refused housing, and more than one in ten have been evicted because of their gender identity.
In other good news, Del. Simon and Sen. Ebbin are both brining bills dealing with same-sex marriage and the state code this year.
Back in November, Simon announced HB 5 which would remove the language of Virginia’s 2006 ban on same-sex marriage from the state code after the Supreme Court ruling stuck bans nationwide last year. Ebbin’s bill, SB 10, is the Senate version of the same bill.
An ever hopefully Ebbin told GayRVA last December “This will pass eventually… Whether it’s this year, or next year, I’ll keep at it.”
It took Virginia more than 10 years to remove language making sodomy illegal in the state (again, after a Supreme Court ruling struck laws nationwide).
GayRVA will be following all these bills the best we can, so stay tuned in the coming weeks as the 2016 GA session started today.