HRC State Equality Index says Virginia has a lot of work ahead to achieve basic equality
The Human Rights campaign has released their annual report card for each state when it comes to legislative equality and Virginia is way below the curve.
While rankings or numbers weren’t given, The Commonwealth has a lot of work that still needs to be done according to the nation’s largest LGBTQ equality group.
“The results from this year’s index are clear: the battle for LGBT equality at the state level is far from over, and although LGBT people in some states are seeing progress, others are experiencing new setbacks,” reads the intro from HRC Executive Director Chad Griffin. “Until we pass the Equality Act and secure explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans at the federal level, our nation’s patchwork of state laws and local ordinances will require us to fight for equality on many fronts.”
As Griffin points out, we’re still far from full equality, and Virginia is a prime example of just how far we are.
While you can read VA’s full score card here, we’ve provided a breakdown with details below:
Non-discrimination, Hate Crime and Parenting Laws
Anyone who’s spent any time on GayRVA knows Virginia does not protect LGBTQ people in the workplace (state or private), housing, public accommodations and a mess of other ways. HRC seems to have given us credit for state employment because of Gov. McAuliffe’s executive order, but that expires and is open to change when the next Governor takes office.
There are a two bills which have passed the state Senate and could offer permanent protections for state employees and LGBTQ folks seeking housing, but they’ll have to pass a House committee and then a full House vote which is less than likely.
HRC also notes we’ve got one of the nation’s oldest religious freedom laws which allow religious institutions, but not private businesses, to discriminate based on “deeply held religious” beliefs.
Virginia is a Dillan Rule state which means localities cannot pass any laws, such as protections for LGBTQs, unless such powers are granted by the GA – though HRC doesn’t have us ‘ticked’ for that oddly enough.
After marriage equality came to the US, Virginia (kicking and screaming) now allows for same-sex parent adoption, however second parent adoptions, where the parents aren’t married, are still not legal in the state.
Virginia is also one of the few states in the nation which allows state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples if it goes against their religious beliefs.
As we covered of the last year, Virginia lacks hate crime laws for LGBTQ people, leading incidents like the attack at the Chesterfield Amazon facility which lingered in limbo until the feds stepped in to finally press charges.
Youth and Health and safety laws
Virginia scored pretty poorly on laws protecting youth as well – while some school boards have recently started offering protections for LGBTQ students and faculty, there are others who have done the opposite. This lack on consistency hasn’t helped when legislators work to add discrimination into the state school’s code like Del. Cole who’s aiming to force transgender students and citizens into restrooms aligned with their biological gender, and not the gender they currently identify with.
The health and safety section of HRC’s Virginia report applies mostly to transgender individuals and shows off some of the less discussed issues currently faced by this part of the community. It is surprisingly easy to change your gender marker on your drivers license here in VA, but the process of switching from M to F (or M to F) on a birth certificate still requires a court order from a judge who can ask for some pretty detailed notes about your gender change surgery. Equality Virginia is working to make it easier for trans folks to update their birth certificate, but that process is far from over.
Virginia also has a number of laws which specifically deal with HIV/AIDS transmission and add penalties for those who break the law.
HRC ends their report with a surprisingly high note – the “annual progress” bar shows things are legislatively getting better -and our own coverage at this year’s GA supports that.
Sure, the number of anti-LGBTQ bills proposed this year is more than the supportive ones, but we’re getting there, and McAuliffe has promised to veto any law that would make the state less welcoming. But it’s important to think of these bills in the coming GA sessions so we have something to work towards.
“In the face of these legislative attacks, pro-equality lawmakers stood with us to fight back.”December 20, 2016
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