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Senate Bill to add protections for Virginia’s LGBTQ public employees passes first hurdle

Senator Adam Ebbin, Virginia’s only openly gay Senator, is hoping to protect those like him who work for the state, and today’s Senate vote was the first step in that process this session.

In a 13-3 vote, the measure passed with Republicans breaking tradition in supporting it.

A long time advocate for LGBTQ rights in both the House and Senate, Ebbin’s new bill, SB 783, hopes to prohibit discrimination  on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against state and municipal employees.

“It’s past time to codify protections for Virginia’s government workforce,” said Ebbin in a statement sent out ahead of today’s hearing. “No employee or applicant should be judged for anything but their talents and abilities. We’re not North Carolina, everyone is welcome here.”

Currently state employees are protected from such discrimination thanks to an Executive Order signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Senator Tim Kaine signed a similar EO when he took office, but Republican Governor Bob McDonnell removed the language when he entered office.

This tug of war has been required as the GA continues to keep LGBTQ Virginians out of state law except in cases where their relationships are against the law. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state which means localities can not extend protections not offered by the GA, meaning until the state-wide body approves the law, there’s little protections for sexual minority state employees.

Today’s vote is the first step in addressing this issue, if it makes it pass a full Senate vote, it faces guaranteed opposition in House where a similar bill was killed in subcommittee last week.