The husband and I are in Richmond, Virginia for the inauguration of Ralph Northam as Governor, Mark Herring as Attorney General, and Justin Fairfax as Lt. Governor. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has begun and this is a stark change from prior years: no anti-LGBT bills have been introduced while numerous pro-LGBT bill have been filed. Perhaps the near evenly split House of Delegates and the savaging Republicans experienced at the polls last November have changed some attitudes. A piece in GayRVA looks at the welcomed phenomenon which will hopefully be the prelude to passage of long lacking non-discrimination protections. Here are excerpts (it's a lengthy piece that deserves a full read.):
It’s General Assembly time, traditionally a busy season for GayRVA. However, searches through Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS) have revealed a curious thing; unlike previous years, including this past year — which brought us bills attempting to deny transgender people the right to use the bathroom in public and allow faith-based organizations to discriminate against married same-sex couples — this year’s crop of bills and resolutions dealing with LGBTQ issues are all on the right side of issues that affect our community.[R]ight now it appears that 27 bills and resolutions relating to LGBTQ issues have been filed in the Senate and House Of Delegates. These mainly fall into three categories.
Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to current hate crime statutes. There are four bills that have been introduced in the House (HB 10, 32, 266, and 718) and one in the Senate (SB 112) that add sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as gender and disability in most cases, to the categories of victims whose intentional targeting in a crime will result in a higher sentence for the perpetrator.
Prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a big one. Virginia is one of six states in which state employees are the only people in the state protected from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Of course, in that respect, we are still doing better than the 16 states with no employment-based protections at all for LGBTQ workers. But that’s thin comfort for a trans woman who can’t get a job at KFC due to her gender identity. There are other ways in which discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is also currently permitted under the law — for example, as it stands, those who are denied housing on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity have no legal recourse.
Del. Mark Levine’s HB 401 is the big one here — it prohibits “discrimination in employment, public accommodation, public contracting, apprenticeship programs, housing, banking, and insurance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” This is a broad, sweeping piece of legislation that tackles all facets of a problem that some other bills only address small parts of.
Removal of sex-based classifications in laws relating to marriage and parenting. Several bills have been introduced that will amend with gender-neutral terms a variety of laws that currently describe couples as being made up of one man and one woman. These are basically procedural in nature; they simply recognize in legal language the reality that already exists in our state. However, their passage is important in making clear Virginia’s commitment to recognizing and welcoming same-sex couples. Situations these bills deal with include the property rights of married, ahem, people (HB 410), assisted conception (HB 411), adoption (HB 413), and even marriage-related criminal laws (HB 412), which, yes, have to be made applicable to same-sex couples too.
There are a few other noteworthy issues our legislators have chosen to focus on this year. Bills to ban conversion therapy, aka “ex-gay” therapy, have been introduced in both the House and Senate. 47th District Delegate Patrick A. Hope’s HB 363 prohibits health care providers and counselors from engaging in what the bill calls “sexual orientation change efforts” with anyone under the age of 18.
Bills and resolutions proposing the repeal of the Marshall-Newman Amendment, the 2006 state Constitutional amendment defining marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman,” have been introduced in both the House and Senate. HB 414, introduced by 53rd District Delegate Marcus Simon, and SB 603, introduced by 30th District Senator Adam Ebbin, both seek to repeal prohibitions against same-sex marriages that still remain encoded into law, despite the fact that the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges made such prohibitions invalid.