Saturday, April 04, 2015

The Sad State of Non-Discrimination Protections in Virginia

The GOP's approach to LGBT rights in Virginia

While the firestorm over Indiana's falsely named "religions freedom restoration act" prompted Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to invite Indiana businesses to come to Virginia, the sad reality is that Virginia is little better than Indiana in its treatment of its LGBT citizens.  And that's not because of the efforts of McAuliffe and Democrats - including Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring - to move Virginia into the 21st century.  Rather, as is the case across the nation, it is because of the Republicans' self-prostitution to Christofascists (and carefully gerrymandered districts to keep Republicans in "safe" districts) that LGBT Virginians remain third class citizens even though we finally have the right to marry.  A column in the Richmond Times Dispatch looks at the state of LGBT rights in Virginia.  Here are highlights:

[E]ven as Indiana lawmakers scrambled to amend a law that made the state a pariah, amid assertions that businesses were being given the right to refuse service to gay people, Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population remains vulnerable to the same biases that Indiana sought to justify and codify in its Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Some people might be surprised to learn that Virginia has no law that requires places of public accommodation to serve gay and transgender people,” Parrish said, citing restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctor’s officers and other places where they could be denied service without recourse.

Also, “we have no law to ensure that those who are gay or transgender are not fired just because of who they are, and we have no law that protects gay or transgender people from discrimination in housing. We must change that.”

Earlier this week, it was ironic to see Gov. Terry McAuliffe inviting Indiana businesses to relocate to Virginia while touting our bona fides as an “open and welcoming” state. Although McAuliffe’s support of the LGBT community is unimpeachable, the record at our GOP-dominated statehouse is another matter altogether.

“We have the freedom to marry here,” Parrish said. But “we can still be fired and denied public accommodations and housing. ... You can still be denied service in a restaurant.”

in Virginia, the LGBT community is not recognized as a protected class by the state and has few local protections with teeth.

Such relief is hard to come by on the local level in Virginia, where cities and counties have substantial limits to their autonomy. Virginia operates under a concept known as Dillon’s Rule, in which localities largely derive their powers from the state.

“Because of that, we aren’t able to do what other localities in other states can do,” said Richmond City Council member Charles Samuels.
How do we change this?  One way is to vote a straight Democratic ticket in EVERY election - local, state and federal in EVERY election cycle - until eventually, Republicans who back discrimination and bigotry are out of office.  

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