RICHMOND, Va. — Senators and LGBT organizers gathered at the Virginia General Assembly on Thursday to announce and show support for SB701 — a law that would re-introduce sexual orientation into the list of protected classes for state employees.
“LGBT Virginians aren’t asking for special treatment, we are just asking for the right to work while we live an authentic life,” said James Parish, the Executive Director of Equality Virginia.
EV has been working with state representatives to help get the bill to the floor, and created an online petition that collected over 11,000 signatures supporting the bill.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin, one of bill’s chief patrons and the only openly gay member of Virginia’s legislative body, spoke at today’s event and shared his personal connection to the bill.
“In Virginia you can be fired for being LGBT – there is just nothing to stop it,” said Ebbin, “…and real people are moving away or deciding not to come here because of our lack of protections for LGBT Virginians. Its a loss for all of us.”
Following the confirmation earlier this week of Tracy Thorne-Begland as the state’s first openly gay jurist, some wonder if the same conservative House that approved his appointment could do the same for this bill.
Sen. Donald McEachin, another patron of SB701, said “the education process that the house went through, in terms of being willing to change their mind about him… certainly shows the house can change its mind and we’re not just throwing straws into the wind.”
Admittedly, the bill’s authors and Equality Virginia said they realize the conservative base in Virginia’s House of Delegates is sure to quash the bill, but if it manages to get out of subcommittee, it will force a vote, putting lawmakers on record over an issue that increasingly gains support from the state’s population.
SB701 made it onto the floor and through the Senate two years ago, but failed to get out of subcommittee last year.