Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed the Virginia Values Act into law this past Friday, making the state the first in the South to pass a law protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
The bill, which was passed by the state legislature earlier this year, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s current civil rights laws banning discrimination in employment, housing, and credit.
“This legislation sends a strong, clear message — Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” Northam said in a statement.
“We are building an inclusive Commonwealth where there is opportunity for everyone, and everyone is treated fairly. No longer will LGBTQ Virginians have to fear being fired, evicted, or denied service in public places because of who they are.”
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 bills that Republican lawmakers had blocked for decades.
Last month, Virginia became the first state in the South to ban conversion therapy for minors. Conversion therapy is the name for any practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and is opposed by mental health organizations.
Conversion therapy “sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” Northam said when he signed that bill.
Several other LGBTQ bills are also working their way through the state legislature and were passed by the state senate this past January.
One bill would require schools to provide the proper ID cards for transgender students and allow them to use the appropriate bathroom. Another makes it easier for transgender residents to update the name and correct the gender marker on their birth certificates. And another bill would remove the state’s ban on marriage equality from the books.
The civil rights law that Northam signed today goes into effect on July 1.