Petitioning an End to Workplace Discrimination
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles featuring GayRVA’s interview with Equality Virginia CEO Jon Blair. Read the first one here.
Approaching Fendall Avenue in Richmond’s historic Battery Park, the road was blocked. It was primary day. After a roundabout detour, turning around on a one way street, we made it to our destination. Standing in the noontime sun at Precinct 0305 – the Albert V Norrell School, sweat glistened off of the campaign staffers and volunteers for Morans, Deeds, and a local sheriff.
Equality Virginia’s CEO Jon Blair pulls up to join the group.
We were there garnering support for EV’s petition to end workplace discrimination for GLBT. There is currently nothing written into state or federal law protecting a worker’s employment status based on their sexual orientation or sexual identity. Right now, it’s the top priority on the organization’s legislative radar.
In polling by EV, 80 percent of Virginian’s support non-discrimination legislation.
“Four or five legislators in the House, with all due respect are only going to hold down the 80 percent of Virginians that support these issues for so long,” Blair said during his interview with GayRVA.
“The challenge is four or five delegates who block this time after time. It’s also the fact that these four or five delegates are influential,” he said.
And this is where the petitioning comes in.
It was a slow day at the polls across Virginia with only 6.5 percent turnout according to the state’s board of electors. Road block and detour aside, during the two-hour lunch rush, approximately twenty people made stepped into the polls.
The residents that did make it to the polls were dedicated in making it there having children escort them, or walking down the street cane in or walker in hand. Many of them had lived in this neighborhood for years and knew one another by name.
The sixteen signatures gathered supporting the legislation matched up to EV’s statistic of 80 percent. The petition will be presented during the next General Assembly.
“Ma’am – would you like to help end workplace discrimination?”
“No, that will never happen,” she declines.
A young man signs the petition after sharing the story of his friend, a lesbian, getting fired after expressing interest in liking a coworker.
Two older gentlemen sign. They have family members that are gay.
“People believe that these laws already exist,” Blair said. “People don’t know that folks are not protected from bullying at school or they don’t know that they’re not protected from discrimination in the workplace.”
Majority of Fortune 500 companies have inclusive non-discrimination policies written into their codes voluntarily and there are a lot of Fortune 500 companies in Virginia. Government is behind business.
“I think it’s interesting because I think that the government and the laws that we have and the code is behind the times, but I do not believe that Virginians are behind the times,” Blair said.
“Miss, would you sign this to help end workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation?”
“You mean, that’s not already a law?”
“Sure. You know, we’re all God’s children.”
“The number one thing that we say when educating the public is letting them know that this legislation doesn’t exist,” Blair said. “Many people believe that it does and are stunned to find out that it doesn’t.”
Openly gay legislators rally to remove defunct same-sex marriage bans from Virginia law and constitution
“There are a number of Republicans, even those are against LGBT equality, who do accept that fact that the Virginia state code books should say what is the law and not what isn’t the law…”October 19, 2016
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