Richmond’s black female Delegate compares LGBT discrimination to her own as last 2 equality bills die in House committees
As a House committee shot down the last hope for any expanded equality in Virginia for this year’s general Assembly session, Richmond’s own black female delegate compared the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community to her own.
“At some point, this general assembly is going to have to advance the cause and make sure that discrimination anywhere is wrong against anyone,” said Del. Delores McQuinn (top image), D-Richmond. Even though she knew the bill before her, SB 785 which would have provided protections for LGBTQ public employees, was going to die, she wanted to make it known she knew what it was like to be discriminated against.
“If we’re going to do the right thing and be an assembly of tomorrow and of the future, or of the present and one to move into the future, then we’re going to have to deal with this and stop laying it on the table.”
Sen. Donald McEachin’s (pictured below), D-Richmond, SB785 was the last LGBT rights bill alive this session. It passed with a tie-breaking vote from Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam last week in time for Equality Virginia’s lobby day, along with Senate Bill 1211, which removed gender specific references from Virginia code.
McEachin introduced the bill, explaining that it is similar to ones the General Assembly has seen in the past.
“What the bill does is it builds on the work of governors Warner, Kaine, McDonnell, and now McAuliffe in terms of making sure that those individuals who are of different sexual orientation than you or I are not discriminated against in the workplace,” McEachin said. “It is a simple bill.”
Steve Rossi, representing the Virginia chapter of the Family Foundation, spoke against the bill.
“The arguments have not changed, as you considered a similar bill a couple of weeks ago,” Rossi said. “It’s a solution looking for a problem.”
But representatives from Equality Virginia, the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union all spoke in favor of SB785.
Kirsten Bokenkamp, representing EV, echoed the sentiments of Gov. McAuliffe and his executive order which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. She said insuring a welcoming work environment for LGBT Virginians is just good business sense.
“Virginia is one of 16 states where gay and lesbian couples can get legally married today, but can go to work tomorrow and be fired just for being gay.”
Bokenkamp also countered a common argument that there is no proof discrimination in the workplace exists.
“A 2013 PEW survey found that 21 percent of LGBT respondents have been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay or promotions,” Bokenkamp said. “We believe it’s time for Virginia to follow the lead of the business community and protect its LGBT public employees.”
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of Virginia’s ACLU, explained what she said was a common misconception about SB785. She said that Virginia does not currently have any state law that protects any persons from workplace discrimination.
“We are in a situation in which our Virginia human rights act is among the weakest statutes of its kind in the country,” said Gastanaga. “It imports federal law but you as a legislature have never passed a law that says that it is illegal to discriminate against public employees based on race or gender or national origin or age or disability or any of the other things. And this bill also adds sexual orientation and gender identity.”
But it was to no avail.
The committee voted to pass by this legislation indefinitely in a 6-2 vote.
SB1211 also failed in a House subcommittee on Tuesday. Several other bills advocating for LGBT Virginians died in the same House Subcommittee of General Laws earlier that session.
House Bill 1454, which prohibited discriminatory practices in housing, failed to make it out of subcommittee.
YES to Pass By Indefinitely
Rush, Wright, Knight, Ramadan, Hodges, Bell, Richard P.
NO to Pass By Indefinitely
“It’s important for my constituents to know that I am there fighting for them.”February 17, 2017
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