Workplace protections for Virginia’s LGBTQ public employees survives Senate committee, will be first LGBTQ bill to make full floor vote since 2013
A bill protecting LGBTQ public employees in the Commonwealth passed a senate committee yesterday afternoon, making it the first sexual minority supportive bill to make it to a full floor vote since 2013.
SB 785, patroned by Sen. McEachin (D-9), would add sexual orientation (SO) and gender identity (GI) to the list of protected classes in Virginia’s public workforce.
Yesterday’s vote was a bipartisan effort, with Republican Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27) showing support for the protections.
SB 785′s passage makes it the first bill dealing with the LGBTQ community to get a full floor vote since 2013′s SB 701 which similarly protected LGBTQ state employees from workplace discrimination.
After surviving a Senate Floor vote, SB 701 was killed in a House committee.
The bill was first heard last week, but a vote was pushed back to yesterday’s committee hearing.
During its first committee hearing, McEachin opened the comment period saying past Governors in Virginia had done good work to support expanding protected classes for state employment, and passing this bill would help codify the recent changes into law.
“The passage of the bill… would be an exclamation point on what they’ve done,” said McEachin of the past governor’s work.
Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order 1 his first day in office. This added SO and GI to the list of protected classes, however executive orders can be repealed by incumbent Governors.
This was the case when former Gov. Tim Kaine added SO and GI, only to have McDonnell remove the two classes and added veteran status.
“We are glad the committee voted in support of fairness and equality, and hope to see this bill pass out of the Senate as well,” said James Parrish, executive director with Equality Virginia. “As the majority of Fortune 500 corporations know, putting a policy in place to protect LGBT employees is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. It is time for Virginia to follow the lead of our business community by passing a law to protect LGBT public employees.”
EV, The state’s largest LGBTQ equality org, had made workplace protections their top priority for the 2015 General Assembly session.
Other voices of support for the bill included Joe Vidulich from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. He told the Senate subcommittee last week that his group supports the bill because the “qualifications for work should be based on the individuals and their abilities, not anything to get in the way of that… it should be the position of the commonwealth.”
Opposition was also present for the committee hearing.
Chris Freund, of the VA-based Christian organization The Family Foundation, said a lack of federal mandate from the Supreme Court, and a lack of Congressional recognition for SO and GI made this bill irrelevant.
“There’s no statistics that shows there’s a problem,” said Freund. “So we urge you to not pass this legislation.”
The full Senate will now vote on SB 785 before the session cross over early next month, though it could be heard before the end of the week.
YEAS: George Barker (D-39), Charles Colgan (D-29), Creigh Deeds (D-25), Adam Ebbin (D-30), Mamie Locke (D-02), Chap Peterson (D-34), Jill Vogel (R-27), Jennifer Wexton (D-33)
NAYS: Frank Ruff (R-15), Richard Black (R-13), Thomas Garret, Jr. (R-22), Stephen Martin (R-11), Bryce Reeves (R-17), Walter Stosch (R-12), Richard Stuart (R-28)
“It is a no brainer that the Commonwealth and subdivisions should be hiring and evaluating employees on their workplace performance and no other factors.”January 29, 2016
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