General Assembly Cross-Over – What’s Left This Session
February 6th marks the beginning of cross-over – the mid-point of the General Assembly session where bills from the Senate move to get voted on in the House, and vice-versa. Its been a rocky year for LGBT issues at the state level, so here is a score card to help you stay informed before the session comes to a close at the end of this month.
SB 701 - the Senate bill hoping to give equal protections to Virginia state LGBT employees. The mantra from Equality Virginia and other LGBT activists has been “you can be fired, or not hired, simply for who you love” and this bill will hope to change that.
Sadly, the bill, even if it passes the house, would have to be signed into law by Governor McDonnell, who took steps at the beginning of his term to remove LGBT protections for state employees.
Assigned to subcommittee, hearing date is unconfirmed at this time
SB969 - A Senate bill that aims to remove a reconstruction era law that makes it illegal for unmarried couples to “lewdly” live together. Senator Adam Ebbin has fought for this bill, which was unanimously passed by the senate. Ebbin was pleased with the unanimous vote, and is in high spirits about the bill’s future. “Stranger things have happened in the past, where unanimous bills haven’t passed the other chamber,” said Ebbin. “But I’m very hopeful. It’s a simple bill, it makes sense, It’s with the times.”
Assigned to Committee, hearing date is unconfirmed at this time
HB 1617 and SB1074 – These nearly identical bills allow publicly funded college clubs and organizations to discriminate in their membership and leadership. Senator Ebbin and other Democrats protested the bill’s passage, but the Senate passed it. The House Version similarly passed with an overwhelming majority. This leaves little room for the safety of this bill. If Governor McDonnell signs it, we could have state-funded groups that use discriminatory practices.
Interestingly enough, however, attempts by college clubs to discriminate in the past have been challenged, and made their way to the Supreme Court. In 2010, CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY CHAPTER v. MARTINEZ, SCOTUS sided with a students claims that such state-funded discrimination was not legal, and the state law that required clubs to welcome all members was upheld.
HB 1617 is set to go before subcommittee Tomorrow morning (2/7/13)
HB 2021 - A house bill that hoped to codify the state employee non-discrimination policy EXCLUDING LGBT from the list of protected classes. This would have made the current policy, enacted through executive order by Governor Mcdonnell, state law. Thankfully, this bill never made it out of subcommittee.
HB 1871 – A bill defining bullying at the state level. Though LGBT folks are not specifically listed, it doesn’t define the characteristics of bullying, rather than activities. Therefore, any bullying, whether LGBT focused or not, is subject to the law. Delegate Jennifer McClellan is the patron of the bill, which made it through the House by a great majority. Mclellan said she worked hard with stake holders to develop the bill to make sure everyone was pleased; in an act of amazing bi-partisanship, the governors own School Safety Task Force endorsed it.
While laws already existed to combat bullying in schools, bullying itself hadn’t been defined. That’s where HB 1871 came in. “A lot of these folks who have turned violent in our schools were people who were bullied,” said McClellan. This bill hopes to stem that tide.
Assigned to committee, hearing date unconfirmed at this time
Senator Ebbin was cautiously optimistic for LGBT rights at this point in the GA session. “The fact that we passed 701 and 969, and that we have a bullying bill on the move, are all steps in the right direction.” said Ebbin, “however, the set backs that we faced are very disappointing.”
McClellan sighed hard when asked about LGBT rights to this point. She too, was trying to stay positive, and said that no matter the outcome of this sessions legislation, the appointment of Tracy Thorne-Begland was a great step. “We still have a long way to go as a commonwealth, but peoples minds are starting to be open.”
“Today’s bipartisan Support for nondiscrimination protections reflects Virginians broad support for allowing gay and transgender people to work and live free from discrimination.”January 27, 2017
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