While Virginia was recently voted the best state for doing business, one area where it lost points and which could cause its top ranking to slip in the future was its lack of non-discrimination laws for LGBT citizens. Big business likes such laws because they allow them to attract the best and brightest, This November the entire membership of the Virginia General Assembly is up for election. By flipping a few seats in each chamber, Democrats could win control and end the decades of GOP enforced homophobia that has blocked passage of non-discrimination laws in both employment and housing as the Virginia GOP has pandered to Christofascist hate groups such as The Family Foundation. A piece in Mother Jones looks at how this sea change might come to pass. It also should make it clear that every LGBT Virginian needs to be engaged and supporting Democrat candidates. If you live in districts that are safe seats already held by Democrats, work to support other Democrats - the husband and I are actively supporting Shelly Simonds and Martha Mugler even though we do not live in their districts. The goal is to win Democrat control of both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates. Here are highlights from Mother Jones:
Days before the Virginia House of Delegates was set to consider two nondiscrimination bills in January, gay and transgender activists were excited for what they thought would end in a long-sought victory. For years, LGBTQ activists in Virginia had been working to pass laws that would ban discrimination in housing and government employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.But right before the dual bills were scheduled to be heard in committee, they were suddenly removed from the agenda by Republican House leadership and not rescheduled before the legislative session ended, sparking outrage from LGBTQ supporters.
LGBTQ advocates directed the blame at two men: House majority chair Tim Hugo and Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican representing the state’s 66th district who’s comfortably held his seat since 1990 and is up for reelection this fall. But come November, Cox might face a tougher challenge: LGBTQ advocates are gearing up to launch a massive campaign against Cox. And thanks to redrawn district lines, which the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed, they have better odds of booting Cox, flipping the state’s House of Representatives, and ending this years-long battle for LGBTQ rights.
Virginia doesn’t currently have laws to protect residents from being fired (or not hired in the first place) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Similarly, there aren’t any discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents seeking housing. For years, fighting these issues has been a priority for state LGBTQ advocates. One of former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s last actions before he left office was to sign an executive order to protect gay and transgender state contractors from workplace discrimination. The state’s current governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, signed a similar, more expansive version of that executive order shortly after he was sworn to office, which extended to state employees.
According to LGBTQ advocates, Cox and Hugo put “pressure on members of their caucus” to pull the bills from committee, Metro Weekly reports. Though Cox hasn’t said anything publicly about the two nondiscrimination bills (and didn’t respond to Mother Jones‘ request for comment), he has a history of siding against LGBTQ rights in Virginia. In 2014, when the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, announced he would not defend Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, Cox attacked his position. Cox told NPR at the time that “the attorney general has a constitutional and statutory obligation to enforce and defend the duly adopted laws and constitution of Virginia.”
[E]ver since the Supreme Court threw out a challenge to the state’s legislative map last month, upholding a redistricting map that could boosts the Democrats’ chance at retaking the House, Parrish says Equality Virginia is ready to do whatever it takes to unseat Cox.
The GOP currently holds a a two-seat majority in both bodies of the assembly. In the newly redrawn legislative map that was approved by a federal court in February, Democrats hold an edge to retake control in several Republican-held districts, including Cox’s, which lies just below Richmond in the center part of the state. According to projections based on census data and past voting patterns from the 2012 presidential election, the 66th District is expected to swing a full 32 points toward Democratic control, tilting the new district lines slightly in favor of Democrats.
“We’ve identified just over 7,000 LGBT voters in the new parts of this district,” Parrish says. He says Equality Virginia plans to tour the state this summer to host educational campaigns on the election and how the changes to the legislative map will affect voters—especially those who support LGBTQ rights.
And they’re getting help from national LGBTQ advocates: the Human Rights Campaign tells Mother Jones that they’ll be deploying resources to help Equality Virginia unseat Cox. “HRC will be going door to door and engaging our 10,000 plus equality voters in Cox’s district, and millions more across Virginia, to put him out of a job come November,” says Lucas Acosta, an HRC spokesperson.
SheilaBynum-Coleman, a real estate agent running on the Democratic ticket [against Cox] . . . tells Mother Jones she supports both of the nondiscrimination bills and also blames Cox for not pushing them through to a committee vote. “It’s hurtful to our democracy that the leader of the House of Delegates will not allow a bill to come to the floor that has enough votes to pass when it’s stuff that he doesn’t agree with,” she says. “It hurts our democracy.”
The message is to get involved. Similar efforts need to be made in every competitive district. Do NOT rely on the efforts of Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia - these organizations are lead by the same cretins (in my opinion) who stupidly demanded Ralph Northam - the most LGBT friendly governor in Virginia history - resign back in February. I have zero confidence in the ability of these organizations to pull off this effort. Everyday LGBT Virginians need to be involved and make the effort to unseat Cox and others successful. Consider going to Bynum-Coleman's campaign page and making a contribution.Both Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign told Mother Jones they haven’t made any endorsements yet, but Acosta emphasizes the importance of the election: “If we want to see change in Virginia,” he says, “Cox must go.”