House subcommittee kills bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation

After passing the Senate last month, a bill that would protect state employees from discrimination against their sexual orientation failed yesterday to reach the House floor.

Update #2 — February 13, 2013; 9:35 AM

Yesterday, a House subcommittee tabled a bill (SB701) that would prohibit discrimination of state employees based on sexual orientation (see below), effectively killing the bill for the remainder of the legislative session.  

“State employees must now go another year without workplace protections,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “It’s downright disrespectful that this subcommittee did not listen to the thousands of Virginians that messaged their Delegates and Senators over the past two months in support of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state employees.”

A General Laws Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process Subcommittee tabled the legislation, a move that essentially defers any consideration of a bill. SB701 passed the Senate last month, receiving support from 46 co-patrons in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Equality Virginia reports that 80 percent of Virginia’s top-25 largest private employers safeguard sexual orientation in their policies, with 60 percent also including gender identity and expression.

“The support of our cities and counties is further proof that this House of Delegates needs to catch up with our Senate, the business community, and the rest of Virginia,” Parrish said.

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Update #1 – January 25th; 12:02 PM

Today, the state Senate passed a bill (see below) that would prohibit discrimination against state employees because of sexual orientation by a 24-16 vote.

“We are pleased that four Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues in passing SB701 to protect LGBT state employees,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. “In the private sector, workplace protections are shown to decrease legal vulnerability while enhancing the employer’s reputation, increasing job satisfaction, and boosting employee morale and productivity.”

According to Equality Virginia, 80 percent of Virginia’s top 25 private employers already have policies protecting the sexual orientation of employees.  

“Making sure elected officials hear LGBT issues are important to all Virginians is the most important thing any citizen can do to open hearts and minds across the state,” Parrish said. “We’re very fortunate the Senators that voted in support today are listening to their constituents.”

Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), one of the senators who introduced the measure, said the bill is about fairness for all Virginians. He encouraged the House of Delegates, which will now consider the bill, to pass it.

“The people must continue to lead the legislature and remind the House that Virginia is an open state and welcoming to all folks as we move this bill ahead,” McEachin said.

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Original – January 25th

Earlier this week, a state Senate committee approved a bill (SB701) that would prohibit discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation, as well as other pretexts absent in Virginia’s code for state workers.1

“We’re glad the committee listened to the thousands of Virginians that messaged their delegates and senators on this issue,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a nonprofit LGBT advocacy organization. “Now we must continue spreading the word about the importance of workplace protections for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state employees to move this out of the Senate.”

The bill, introduced by Senators Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), will soon go before a full Senate vote.

“It’s about fairness,” McEachin said in a recent interview about the bill that would not only add protections against state employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but also bolster existing protections to include:

…race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974…

In early 2011, the Senate narrowly passed a similar bill also introduced by McEachin. That bill later failed in the House. In 2012, another nondiscrimination bill languished in a Senate committee.

But Equality Virginia reports that the General Assembly has received over 11,000 constituent messages in support of SB701, which have helped buoy optimism for the bill’s advocates.

Kevin Clay, Equality Virginia’s Communications Coordinator, said, “We’re very hopeful that it will pass through the Senate once again.” When asked about the bill’s chances in the House, the chamber that failed to pass a similar bill in 2011, Clay referred to the 11,000 messages of support.

“We’re hopeful that Virginia will catch up” to other states that have already enacted similar non-discriminatory measures, he said.

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  1. Currently, the law only prevents discrimination based on race, color, religion, political affiliation, age, disability, national origin, and sex. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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