VA House uses weird procedural vote to kill multiple LGBTQ bills
The House General Laws subcommittee laid waste to several pro and anti LGBTQ bills today using a procedural system similar to one in the 80′s used to hide away HIV/AIDS related laws.
Bills which would ban conversion therapy on minors, offer protections to LGBTQ state employees, and provide protections for LGBTQ’s in housing were sent to the Code Commission along side bills that would require Virginia to ignore protections offered by the federal government, including those for LGBTQ Virginians, after 2012, and deny school boards from protecting LGBTQ students.
The Chair of the committee, M. Keith Hodges (R- 98), opened the meeting by saying he’d been given a list of bills which would “look at the legislation in light of the recent supreme court decision [around same-sex marriage]” and send them to the Codes commission for more research. Hodges said the House Speaker himself would be writing a letter to each Delegate effected as the bill was passed to the Code Commission.
“It’s not unusual,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, Executive Director for the Virginia ACLU. “Sometimes you’ll see them refers a bunch of bills to the housing commission, [etc]… it’s not unusual for them to use bodies like this.”
But Gastanaga also pointed to a similar system used in the 80′s to put HIV/AIDS related bills into a similarly destitute committee, allowing delegates to ignore the issues at hand.
“They made a decision about what bills they wanted to put on the floor and they made an architecture to do that,” she said.
“We’ve been introducing a non-discrimination bill since 2006,” said Gastanaga about one of the bills which was sent to the Code Committee. “They’ve killed the positive bills ever since… they know that the ground is shifting under them, they know they don’t have to appear unreasonable. The time is coming for [LGBTQ] nondiscrimination, we’re getting closer and closer, so that fact is illustrated by the fact they didn’t kill them out right this year.”
But in a weird twist on the democratic process, the procedural vote not only left the bills out for the rest of the session, it also attempted to deny public comment.
This didn’t stop legislators on both sides of the issue from forcing testimony, with powerful messages delivered through out (which we’ll be reporting on more in depth tomorrow)
Among those who questioned the procedural vote was Del. David J. Toscano (D-57 (top image).
“I’m not sure the code commission can really deal with a bill like this because I think its broader than just trying to think whats properly in the code based on present law cause this would really change law,” he said attempting to sway the committee to hear his bill which aimed to offer protections for LGBTQ’s in public employment and housing.
“A long time ago we had number of bills like this dealing with racial discrimination and it took a long time for people to understand that this was a problem that we had to deal with and eventually we dealt with it,” he said in impromptu speech. He commented on the use of religion as a tool to discriminate, and how those views eventually faded – “They’re losing control over things they had control over in the past,” he said.
“If you think about fairness and equality for groups of people, you’ll realize, as part of religious teaching, that we should not discriminate agianst people because of differences we had with them,” he said before surrendering to the committee vote to send his bill to the Code Commission, effectively killing it for the 2016 session.
Del. Marcus Simon was less willing to let those he brought to testify be swept under the rug and questioned the House Leadership’s procedural move.
“Fair housing with sexual orientation and gender identity has nothing to do with same-sex marriage,” he said in defense of his housing protections bills. We’ll be covering the testimony he brought more tomorrow, but after leaving the committee he commentated how the procedural vote lets the House members “get to vote no, saying they need to study the legislation more, without having to actually to say they don’t support the bill.”
But the procedural move was not used exclusively on pro-LGBTQ bills. Del. Dave LaRock’s bill which aims to deny schools boards from offering protections for LGBTQ youth, was also on the chopping block without a proper hearing.
“Have you looked at the bill yourself?” LaRock asked the committee chair. “There are parts of the bill which do not relate to the type of work the code commission does as I understand it, I was really hoping to have a hearing for the bill today.”
Hodges denied the Del.’s request and insisted it would face the same end as many of the other bills presented.
“This fits the criteria for the committee to make that motion,” Hodges said.
Interestingly enough, Del. Todd Gilbert, author of a bill which would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ’s around the commonwealth and head of the full General Laws Committee, had his bill pushed to a later session, protecting it from both public comment and the “code commission” procedural vote.
Because of the large amount of bills heard today GayRVA will do a better, individual breakdown tomorrow, but we wanted to let folks know about the bizzare happenings today. Look for more GA coverage from us in the next 24 hours.
A Code Commission hold can silence groups from telling their stories in front of lawmakers.July 13, 2016
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