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Virginia to become the first Southern state with LGBTQ civil rights protections

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is set to sign the Virginia Values Act, a sweeping LGBTQ anti-discrimination law.
Virginia Governor Ralph NorthamPhoto: Shutterstock

This week, Virginia’s Democratic-lead legislature passed the Virginia Values Act, a law that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s pre-existing civil rights protections banning discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The state’s House and Senate must now confirm each other’s version of the bill once more before it heads to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Northam is expected to sign it, which would make Virginia the first Southern state to offer non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

Related: Tina Fey tells University of Virginia students to stop insulting gay people at football games

The bill comes on the heels of several other LGBTQ-inclusive bills in the state legislature: Senate Bill 161 requires schools to provide the proper ID cards for transgender students and allow them to use the appropriate bathroom; Senate Bill 245 bans conversion therapy for youth; Senate Bill 657 eases restrictions for trans residents to change their name and sex on their birth certificates; and Senate Bill 17 repeals a statutory ban on same-sex marriage that still exists in the state.

“LGBTQ Virginians should never have to fear being fired or evicted because of who they love,” Gov. Northam said in a statement. “These comprehensive anti-discrimination protections will make our Commonwealth stronger and more inclusive and I’m proud to support them.”

In November, Democrats took control of the Virginia state legislature for the first time in 26 years, allowing the state’s general assembly to pass social reforms that Republican legislators prevented over the last two decades. An estimated 257,400 LGBTQ adults live in Virginia.

“This is really just bringing Virginia into the 21st century,” state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), the first openly gay lawmaker in the General Assembly, told the Washington Post. “Voters showed us they wanted equality on November 5th, and the Senate of Virginia has started to deliver on that.”

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