OpEd: Virginia’s Generally Embarrassing Assembly
By Brian Charlton
As an ally I find it difficult to believe how minimum and ironic the current Virginia government’s treatment of the LGBT community really is. Whether it is Virginia Delegate C. Todd Gilbert’s refusal to acknowledge LGBT oppression; another country’s use of a Virginia landmark civil rights case; or the failure of the House to even hear an amendment which would have given hope to same-sex marriages in the state. Delegates in Virginia have a lot to learn about human rights.
In a historical and unanimous decision, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and a form of discrimination. Oddly enough, they cited the famous Loving v. Virginia case that legalized interracial marriage as a defense.
Justice Lelo de Larrea and his fellow jurists compared the racial discrimination in the U.S. to the discriminatory nature of same-sex marriage bans, holding that such laws discriminate by depriving same-sex couples both of the right to marry and of the right to marital benefits. It is amazing that Virginia’s history would be used in defense of LGBT rights considering its delegates refusal to even hear a proposed amendment that would have removed the 2007 Marshall Newman Amendment that defined marriage as a union between that of a man and a women.
Delegate Scott Surovell (Fairfax – D) said that marriage should be about the love between two people, no matter what their orientation, “I think marriage is about two people who love each other, making a life long commitment to each other, and I think its hateful to deny that because of sexual orientation.” He knew the amendment was unlikely to pass, he but also knew that it was a matter of fighting for what is right. For people like Surovell and myself, this is a human rights issue and not a code of conduct that should exist among our elected officials.
I don’t fault the delegates of Virginia for their views of LGBT rights, I believe it could be attributed to a lack of understanding of what the LGBT community faces. When Del. Gilbert successfully moved to kill SB701, a bipartisan proposal to create protections for LGBT state employees, he said there was no record of discrimination in Virginia state employment. “We have not a single example of anyone who has been discriminated against for this reason.” Said Gilbert at the House subcommittee hearing that decided the future of the bill. I can name a few right off the bat, Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s 2012 rejected bid for judgeship or former VCU volleyball coach, James Finley, who claims his firing was the result of discrimination after a new Athletic Director came in and fired or demoted his only two openly gay employees
Ironically, Gilbert supported a bill that would ban discrimination elsewhere. He was the chief sponsor of HB1617, a bill that passed the House and Senate which banned discrimination against religious and political groups at Virginia’s public colleges and universities. This allows these clubs to choose to restrict membership based on their beliefs. Maybe unbeknownst to Gilbert, this bill gave clubs an implied license to discriminate against LGBT and other students.
The majority of Virginia Republican delegates deny the LGBT community certain rights yet they are hard at work passing extraneous laws with little evidence to support them. A bill implementing voter ID laws will soon hit Gov. McDonnell’s desk. Most, if not all, examples of voter fraud seem to be committed by Republicans. Colin Small of Phoenixville, PA, an employee of the Virginia Republican Party, was arrested on charges of voter registration fraud after voter registration forms were found in a dumpster bin in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Or, when Roxanne Rubin, a Nevada republican, tried to vote twice in the most recent election. She was caught by poll workers, and faced federal voter fraud charges. It just seems, considering conservative’s track record on the issue, this sort of bill has little precedence over human rights but is obviously a top priority of the Republican party.
As I have previously stated, most Virginia representatives have a lot to learn about human rights. Virginia has come so far since the civil rights movement of the 60’s and have yet again hit a wall. What Mexico City has accomplished is a reasonable look into the way human rights should be handled, likening LGBT issues to a modern civil rights movement. This is the type of mentality our representatives need to adopt, where LGBT rights are a very human issue. I just hope that Virginia can follow in the same footsteps as Mexico City and adopt similar legislation as something to preserve and secure.
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