Virginia Senator aims to protect LGBTQ state employees for good with new legislation
Governor McAuliffe, in his first day of office, signed an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from workplace discrimination. For those LGBTQ employees in different parts of state employment, when the portrait of our now disgraced former Governor Bob McDonnell went down, and Terry McAuliffe’s went up, it came with a wave of relief.
McDonnell had taken steps to specifically remove sexual orientation from the state’s list of protected classes when he took office in 2009, similarly signing an executive order on his first day in office undoing the work former Governor Tim Kaine had done.
The unnecessary stress associated with Gubernatorial whims is what Senator Adam Ebbin (top image) hopes to remove from LGBTQ state employees with his new bill, SB12.
As it sits now, the Virginia Human Rights Act makes it illegal for the state to discriminate against an employee or possible hire over their “ race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability shall.”
Ebbin hopes to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list permanently, taking the power out of the governor’s hands and making it the law of the land.
“It is a no brainer that the Commonwealth and subdivisions should be hiring and evaluating employees on their workplace performance and no other factors,” said Ebbin in a phone interview. He’s been advocating for this kind of legislation for some time, but last year, for the first time, he received bipartisan support on the issue when Delegate Ron Villanueva (R-21) submitted his own house bill with mirrored language.
“In today’s day and age, we recognize new categories…” said Del. Villanueva during a hearing at a Republican controlled committee last year. “The military has advanced programs on this, as well as federal and private employers who have taken leadership on this. And we’re asking Virginia to take leadership and promote it the Virginia way.”
Both Senate and House bills aimed at providing these protections died in committee last year, leaving little hope this time around, and Ebbin hasn’t yet confirmed Villanueva’s support for this year, but the Senator is confident the protections will be added some day.
“[It is] still essential that all employees know they are protected,” he said. “The idea is that we have certainty in the code over Virginia, and this is a policy matter, and not subject to the whim of different governors.”
“Polling shows that overwhelming majorities of Virginians support workforce protections for state employees,” said Ebbin, referencing a 2015 William Institute Poll which showed 80% of Virginians support providing these protections.
Ebbin’s bill is headed to the General Laws and Technology committee this session. GayRVA will be following this story as it progresses.
In a 13-3 vote, the measure passed with Republicans breaking tradition in supporting it.January 23, 2017
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