Virginia continues to fall way behind in HRC’s 2016 State Equality Index
Virginia’s LGBTQ community continues to be one of the least protected in the nation according to a new annual report released by the Human Rights Campaign.
The report, the State Equality Index, examines state level laws that offer protections for sexual minorities and then produces a score to help guide legislation as well as inform citizens.
“Anti-LGBTQ lawmakers introduced more than 200 bills attacking our community across 34 states. Many of these hateful bills specifically targeted the transgender community and shamefully promoted prejudice and discrimination under the guise of ‘religious freedom,’” wrote HRC President Chad Griffin. “But in the face of these legislative attacks, pro-equality lawmakers stood with us to fight back.”
Virginia legislators were among those 200 bills during the 2016 GA session though no new notable good or bad bills survived either the Republican controlled House or the Democratic Governor’s desk.
While rankings or numbers weren’t given, The Commonwealth has a lot of work that still needs to be done according to the nation’s largest LGBTQ equality group.
Lets take a look at this year’s card:
Anyone who’s spent any time on GayRVA knows Virginia does not protect LGBTQ people in the workplace (state or private), housing, public accommodations and a mess of other ways. HRC seems to have given us credit for state employment because of Gov. McAuliffe’s executive order, but that expires and is open to change when the next Governor takes office.
There should be some legislation during the 2017 session which could improve our protected status in these core areas, but they’ll have to pass a House committee and then a full House vote which is less than likely.
HRC also notes Virginia has one of the nation’s oldest religious freedom laws which allow religious institutions, but not private businesses, to discriminate based on “deeply held religious” beliefs.
Virginia is a Dillan Rule state which means localities cannot pass any laws, such as protections for LGBTQs, unless such powers are granted by the GA – though HRC doesn’t have us ‘ticked’ for that oddly enough.
After marriage equality came to the US, Virginia (kicking and screaming) now allows for same-sex parent adoption, however second parent adoptions, where the parents aren’t married, are still not legal in the state.
Virginia is also one of the few states in the nation which allows state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples if it goes against their religious beliefs.
As we covered in years past, Virginia lacks hate crime laws protecting LGBTQ people, leading incidents like the attack at the Chesterfield Amazon facility which continues to flounder under a failed prosecution attempt by the Feds.
Virginia scored pretty poorly on laws protecting youth as well – while some school boards have recently started offering protections for LGBTQ students and faculty, there are others who have done the opposite.
Despite being only a few weeks away from the 2017 GA, there hasn’t been any new anti-LGBTQ legislation submitted – such as a law limiting what bathrooms transgender kids can use – but it could come at any time
The health and safety section of HRC’s Virginia report applies mostly to transgender individuals and shows off some of the less discussed issues currently faced by this part of the community. It is surprisingly easy to change your gender marker on your drivers license here in VA, but the process of switching from M to F (or M to F) on a birth certificate still requires a court order from a judge who can ask for some pretty detailed notes about your gender change surgery. Equality Virginia is working to make it easier for trans folks to update their birth certificate, but that process is far from over.
Virginia also has a number of laws which specifically deal with HIV/AIDS transmission and add penalties for those who break the law.
This upcoming GA, a short session with a 15-bill limit for each legislator, will offer few chances for legislators to pass laws that could harm or support Virginia’s LGBTQs, though we expect a full list of legislation shortly before the session starts in early Janurary.
“I’m not letting his misogyny define me, define my daughter or define my community.”April 21, 2017
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