Rare win for LGBTQ Virginians as two bills pass full Senate vote
Two measures which would help LGBTQ Virginians achieve full equality passed a full Senate floor vote today.
SB 785, sponsored by Sen. Don McEachin, expands the state’s list of protected classes in public employment to include sexual orientation or gender identity.
Currently LGBTQ state employees are protected from discrimination by an executive order from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, however there is no law in the state code guaranteeing those protections once McAuliffe leaves office.
In a show of bi-partisan Republican Senators John Watkins and Jill Vogel voted in support of the bill.
Workplace non-discrimination was a priority issue for Equality Virginia, the state’s leading LGBTQ advocates. Executive Director James Parrish said he was pleased to see SB 785 pass the Senate with bi-partisan support. ”Fairness and inclusion are mainstream values shared by the majority of Virginians and the Commonwealth’s top employers,” said Parrish.
The vote came down to a tie, despite a slight Republican majority in the state Senate. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a long time ally to the LGBTQ community, caste the tie-breaking vote.
SB 1211, sponsored by Virginia’s only openly gay Senator, Adam Ebbin, also passed the full senate floor today.
Ebbins’ bill aims to update the Virginia state code to update some of the gender specific language to become gender neutral since Virginia now recognizes same-sex marriage.
Again, in a show of bipartisan support, Republican Senators Watkins, Walter Stosch, and Tommy Norment both supported the bill.
“Updating the Code of Virginia to reflect marriage equality is the right thing to do,” said Parrish, again congratulating the Senate for achiving bi-partisan support for the bill. “[SB 1211] makes it clear that all legally married spouses are included under Virginia law.”
This is the first time a pro-LGBTQ bill had made it to the Senate floor since 2013 when SB 701, a similar workplace protections bill, passed the Senate but was killed in a House Committee.
Both bills face an uphill battle when they enter the GOP-dominated House in the coming weeks.
Top image from 2015 LGBTQ agenda press conference from Jan.
Editors note - on each bill, we missed one Republican legislator who showed their support – 785 had Vogel and 1211 had Stosch. The text has been updated to include their names.
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