Equality Virginia set to release legislative report card for the first time since 2013 despite GOP’s efforts to quash votes
Despite attempts by the GOP controlled House this GA session to bury pro-LGBTQ legislation, Equality Virginia plans to release a more detailed report card this year for the first time since 2013.
“In a Government where we’re not the best at being transparent, [report cards are] a great resource for our community and allies to see where the GA stands in LGBT votes and helps them identify where their elected representatives stand,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia.
Parrish said the push against LGBTQ bills in the past had made it difficult to do a proper “report card,” or rating on each elected official.
Most bills his group supported (or opposed) were killed in subcommittee in the last two years, and subcommittee votes are not recorded in a transparent way. Between the lack of officially record votes, and the lack of votes conducted by more than a limited number of elected officials, EV didn’t feel comfortable releasing full report cards.
“It’s not fair or accurate to put a score card out for the House when only 5-7% of the delegates are casting votes,” Parish said. “We didn’t have enough votes”
But this year is lining up to be different, with Parrish saying they’ve got recorded votes on four bills before the House, four bills before the Senate, and a number of bills that went before the full General Laws committee.
“Our membership, especially around things like the bathroom bill, will want to know who voted for what,” he said.
But as the Virginia Pilot pointed out in a piece yesterday, as we near the end of the 2016 General Assembly session, very little will change for Virginia’s LGBTQ population and much of the LGBTQ legislation proposed this year – good and bad - was buried or killed without a recorded vote.
This is the crux of the Pilot’s write up which details how almost every LGBTQ-related bill put before the House this year was sent to the Codes Commission, “an obscure body that supervises the codification of state laws:”
“It’s an avoidance technique, a way to avoid dealing with the realities of 2016,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, sponsor of one of the tabled bills. His measure, SB12, would prohibit discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The Code Commission is not typically a policy-making body,” Ebbin said. “This is just a charade, a way to get rid of bills without a lot of people having to vote on them.”
To make things more interesting the Pilot spoke with the head of the Codes Commission, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who backed up Ebbin’s statement saying “generally, we’re not supposed to make policy.”
Meanwhile, when Del. Todd Gilbert was pressed on why his bill, which codifies discrimination agianst LGBTQs seeking marriages and wedding-related services, was passed on to a full House vote, the Del. saw no connection between his anti-LGBTQ legislation and the myriad of pro-LGBTQ legislation he helped bury.
Gilbert’s measure was approved by the same House subcommittee, passed by the House and sent to the Senate, where its scope was narrowed before passage. It now mirrors another Senate-passed bill that says no marriage officiant or religious organization can be required to perform a marriage ceremony or “provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges” related to marriage in violation of a sincerely held religious belief.
Gilbert said his bill shouldn’t be equated with Ebbin’s.
“I think it’s qualitatively different,” he said. “The emphasis is on religious liberty.”
Gov. McAuliffe has promised to veto Gilbert’s bill, and that should happen sometime in the next week or two.
The Pilot piece is more about the failure of Virginia’s GA to be transparent, and while that created issues for groups like EV over the last two years, the group is excited to say things should be different this year, at least from a record keeping point of view.
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