Protections for Virginia’s LGBT State Employees All But Dead
Senator’s Adam Ebbin (middle) and Donald McEachin (right center)
In a committee today, SB 248, a bill which would prohibit discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity, was tabled by an even 7-7 vote. Race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, age, childbirth conditions and disability would also have been protected under the bill.
James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia, was disappointed with the result.
“Republicans stopped progress today. This is the same bill that passed this committee last year and then on the Senate floor with clear bipartisan support…republicans killed progress,” Parrish said.
“It’s extremely frustrating that…people are telling LGBT employees that protections aren’t necessary.”
Republican Senators Frank Ruff, Walter Stosch, Stephen Martin, Richard Stuart, Richard Black, Bryce Reeves and Thomas Garrett voted against the bill. Voting for the bill were Democratic Senators Charles Colgan, Mamie Locke, J. Chapman Petersen, George Barker, Creigh Deeds and Adam Ebbin. Jill Holtzman Vogel was the only Republican to vote in favor of the bill.
Senators Donald McEachin (D-District 9) and Adam Ebbin (D-District 30) were the chief sponsors of this year’s bill. McEachin has a history of fighting for equality in Virginia, and Ebbin is the state’s first-ever openly gay elected offical. Representatives from nine different groups went to the podium in support of the bill. Jordan Rice, a transwoman with Equality Virginia, voiced her opinion on the bill.
“I am here to ask on behalf of every transgendered person in this state that you pass this workplace non-discrimination bill to provide a way for us to enter the workforce without fear or anxiety of being turned down by prospective employers simply because the struggle to be who we are is often times physical,” Rice said.
“Like you, we were born as we are. And like you, we deserve equality under the law.”
Eddy Aliff of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists was the only person to speak against the bill
“A judge in another state said there are times when religious groups must give up their rights in order to protect others. I believe this will elevate these protections above religious protections. We’re gonna produce a laundry list. This laundry list may include pedophilia, bestiality and so on,” Aliff said.
“Given enough time, I believe the people are gonna say alcoholics aren’t really sick and that it’s somebody else’s fault, that drug addicts aren’t really addicts and it’s somebody else’s fault. I still say it’s a choice. I still believe it’s a choice.“
Equality Virginia has since released a statement saying the bill is dead, however Sen. Ebbin explained the bill could be heard again. SB 428 was tabled, which means it could still be brought up in a future committee hearing. One of the committee seat’s is currently vacant because of the upcoming election for Attorney General Mark Herring’s former senate seat and seat on the committee. If a Democrat wins Herring’s seat, the bill could be brought back and voted on again, passing the committee like similar workplace protection bills had in the past.
Last year’s SB701, a similar workplace protection bill, passed the Senate subcommittee and made it out of the Senate floor, but failed to make it out of the House subcommittee.
Next week a similar version of this bill catered to all public employees will go before the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
“A lot of people still don’t get it. We are in the 21st Century, and whether we have to drag Virginia, kicking and screaming, we’ll get there,” Ebbin said.
LGBTQ state employees currently have protections thanks to Gov. McAuliffe’s executive order 1. However, without proper legislative action codifying the protections, these protections could be removed by the next governor.
I’m a spring intern at RVA Mag and GayRVA. I recently got my degree in journalism from Virginia Tech, where I also wrote for the Collegiate Times newspaper. I spent the first half of my life as an impatient New Yorker, but I grew up here in Richmond, buying skateboards from Dominion, seeing shows at Alley Katz, and watching VCU Rams basketball games. I like everything bagels, wasting my money on clothes I don’t need, moombahton music, and cycling. I probably fell down putting on my pants this morning.
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