Today the Virginia Senate passed SB 701, a bill hoping to grant equal protections for state LGBT employees. The bill passed with a 24-16 vote and no debate. This is only the third time a pro-LGBT bill has passed through either chamber of the General Assembly in the history of Virginia.
Senator McEachin spoke of the importance of passing the bill before the vote was cast.”It is about fairness, it’s about no state employee being discriminated against because of a particular characteristic.”
A similar bill died in subcommittee last year, but Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Clark County) changed her vote and became an important ally in the struggle for equal protections.
Senator Adam Ebbin, (D-30 Alexandria) Virginia’s only openly gay elected official and one of the patrons of the bill, was surprised SB701 passed with no debate from Senate Republicans. “I think we did a good job in committee of answering those challenges,” said Ebbin from his Richmond office. “I think people decided they didn’t want to look narrow-minded which is incredible progress.”
Equality advocates haven’t forgotten the issues the conservative House had with this bill in the past, but today’s easy passage could be a good sign for the bill according to Ebbin. “More and more people are supporting marriage equality, and that makes state employment non-discrimination seem a much lighter lift.”
Although passing this legislation through the Senate is a great step for the LGBT community, the bill faces more challenges in the predominately conservative house where it will go in early February.
Though Kevin Clay, Communications Coordinator for Equality Virginia, was excited to see the bill succeed with so many senators voting across party lines. “Today we had 4 republicans vote for this legislation which shows this is not a party issue… this is about protecting LGBT state employees, job security, and fairness.”
The bill’s next step is to go before a house committee after February 5th when Senate bills cross over to the House.