The bills — HB417 and HB562 — have mirrored language which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, and defines “sexual orientation” as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression.
Currently, it is legal in the state of Virginia to fire someone for their sexual orientation or gender identity. However these bills would clarify the issue and put sexual minorities into the list of protected classes in the Virginia Human Rights Act.
In a display of bipartisanship, HB562 is sponsored by Del. Ron Villanueva, a Republican from Virginia Beach, and HB417 is sponsored by Del. Marcus Simon, a Democrat from Falls Church.
“We’re happy to see legislatures supporting bills that include gender identity and expression,” said James Parish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “Especially a republican like Villanueva, it’s a pretty big deal.”
But Parish said the language in both bills still needed to be tweaked.
The grouping of gender identity with sexual orientation needs to be broken up, and the phrase “The bill expressly provides that ‘sexual orientation’ does not include any person’s attraction towards persons with whom sexual conduct would be illegal due to the age of the parties” needs to be removed, he said.
The future of the bills, both of which will have to survive House sub-committees, is undetermined, but Parish sees Villanueva’s efforts as a good sign.
“We see it as a very positive sign that a Republican delegate would support a Virginia Human Rights act that includes sexual orientation and Gender Identity,” said Parish.
Also before the Virginia General Assembly this session:
A group of six delegates and three senators have sponsored resolutions that would amend the commonwealth’s Constitution to remove the 2006 voter-approved Marshall-Newman Amendment which defined marriage to be between one man and one woman.
And a bill that proposes to ban the use of controversial gay-to-straight conversion (or, reparative) therapy on LGBT youth in Virginia will also be considered by state lawmakers.