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Bills to ban workplace discrimination introduced in Va. general assembly

Thursday, January 9, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. — Two bills to ban discrimination in the public workforce across Virginia have been put before the state’s General Assembly for the 2014 season.

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.

Virginia-FlagCurrently, 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.

Both of the language issues were solved in last year’s version of the bill which made it through the Senate on a 24-16, but failed in a House committee.

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.

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7 more reader comments:

  1. Finally! Come on Virginia! Make me proud to call you home for once!

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 10:36pm
  2. Garrett Piersa

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 10:37pm
  3. help us out – virginia needs to get on board and support all families. maryland would be happy to have us, so let’s keep our educated and hardworking families here in virginia

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 11:03pm
  4. Call yourselves a civilised country when this kind of discrimination goes on???

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 11:11pm
  5. I don’t approve. They’re doing this to make up for the legal criminalization of a felony crime, that being oral sex amongst gay young men up to 17 years of age.

    Posted on Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 11:56pm
  6. Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 2:52am
  7. We need it. I was fired as an employee because the property management found out my partner and I were together and worked right across the courtyard for the same company… Yes to this! Self employed now, but it was an experience to go through. I’m thankful for the lesson…

    Posted on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 3:13am