While the commission is lead by a Democrat, Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), an unpublished letter supposedly authored by House leader and Republican Heavy weight Del. Thomas Howell sent 10 bills to the commission, often before they had the chance to be debated or before they could receive public comment.
ACLU Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastanaga said she had seen the Code Comission used back in the 80′s when the GA didn’t want to deal with HIV/AIDS related legislation.
“They made a decision about what bills they wanted to put on the floor and they made an architecture to do that,” she told GayRVA shortly after the House meeting where many of the bills were sent off. “We’ve been introducing a non-discrimination bill since 2006… They’ve killed the positive bills ever since… they know that the ground is shifting under them, they know they don’t have to appear unreasonable,” she added.
While being kicked out of the Code Comission doesn’t move a bill any closer to passage, it will allow Delegates and Senators to submit similar bills this session. Had those same bills been submitted without this move, they could have similarly been excused without debate or public comment.
“Clearly these bills have been studied enough. I am glad that a bipartisan majority of the Code Commission saw through the efforts of the Republican leadership to put these bills on ice for two years, and agreed that they presented a substantive question that deserves an up or down vote in the Legislature,” said Delegate Marcus Simon who had submitted a House Bill which would have expanded housing protections.
“I am glad they have decided not to become entangled in this attempt at a legislative side-step with Virginians’ rights. Ending LGBT discrimination in housing and employment in our Commonwealth should not be a partisan issue,” said Senator Jennifer Wexton who had submitted a senate version of the same housing protections bill.
This is a breaking story – GayRVA will add updates as they come in.