SB701 Fails, Equal Protections for LGBT State Employees Dead
Chris Freund, Family Foundation
Other opponents of the bill who spoke at the meeting echoed this sentiment. Chris Freund, from the Family Foundation said, “We usually pass laws when problems need to be solved, and there hasn’t been a problem (with discrimination) in Virginia.”
But public comment supporting the bill was comparatively overwhelming, taking well over 10 minutes to get through the large number of individuals who wanted to speak.
The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, AARP, the VA ACLU, representatives from Virginia Commonwealth University, Longwood college, Virginia Education Association, and many other groups spoke in support of the bill.
One particularly powerful comment was made by Mary Shelden, a member of VCU’s faculty. “I should not have to petition my legislature for equal protection under the law,” she said about the fact she even had to be there asking for this law.
Originally from Illinois, Shelden said her move to Virginia was dramatic. “The difference in how I am seen here, my identity, my humanity, my personhood under the law, is a daily drain on my spirit.”
Delegate Delores McQuinn (D – 70th) was the only committee member to speak in support of the bill. One of 2 African-American’s on the committee, she said there had been times when she had been discriminated against, but the court battle that would have ensued would have been too much. “So often, trying to prove discrimination is very difficult to do,” said McQuinn.
SB701 had seen rays of hope as it passed the senate without debate in a 24-16 vote. Legislators and equal-rights supporters were not counting on much from the republican controlled House, but if the bill had made it out of subcommittee, it would have created a voting record for the public to consider in the next round of elections.
James Parrish, Executive Director for Equality Virginia, had been leading the fight to gain support for the bill. He called today’s vote a disappointment, but not a surprise. “That committee has always been difficult because it’s always been stacked with Republican delegates who do not want to recognize LGBT equality in the state.” said Parrish, who promised to be back next year to fight for this issue again. “Everyone needs to vote,” said Parrish about steps people can take to help change the outcome of this bill next year. “It’s about education, and we’ll continue to come to this committee room until they decide to do the right thing.”
Few bills remain relevant to the LGBTQ community this session, and many saw SB701 as a chance for Virginia to acknowledge and legitimize concerns had by many.
SB701 was not without controversy. Language in the bill listed “gender identity’ as a part of sexual orientation, something trans-virginians took issue with.
Yea – D) McQuinn
Abstain – D) Torian
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