1/24/2015: This week at the General Assembly

 Friday updates graphic

The General Assembly session officially started Wednesday, January 14th. That evening, in his State of the Commonwealth address, Governor McAuliffe said that, “in a new Virginia economy, every person will have an equal right to succeed, regardless of his or her…sexual orientation.” Hearing his remarks – and knowing that the Governor of Virginia fully supports the LGBT community – was a heartening way to start session. Before we get started with this week's update, this year - for the very first time - we are glad to have a legislative fellow join us for these very busy weeks of session.  Ashley Moore, a recent law school graduate, will join Kirsten and James down at the General Assembly building and make sure that Equality Virginia seamlessly represents the views of Virginia's LGBT community.  She'll also be live tweeting as bills are heard - so make sure you follow us on Twitter to be the first to know!
Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed this week, not all of our legislators share Governor McAuliffe’s perspective when it comes to LGBT equality.  Last Thursday, things started to get busy.
  • SB 799, a bill introduced by Senator Favola (D–31) that would require Virginia’s law enforcement to report crimes against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity as hate crimes, quickly died in the Senate Court of Justice committee. We will see that bill come up again as Delegate Rip Sullivan (D–48) has introduced a similar bill in the House. Unfortunately, with the anti-LGBT led House of Delegates, we don’t have much hope for the House bill either.
Things really ramped up this week.  Here's the breakdown: MONDAY
  • HJ 492, introduced by Delegate Krupicka (D–45) & HJ 493, introduced by Delegate Surovell (D–44) are constitutional amendments to remove or update the language of the current anti-marriage amendment. These bills are important in that they will update Virginia's constitution to reflect the law of the land. The bills were heard but the committee will not be voting on them until later this session.
  • Senator Wexton (D–33) introduced SB 917, a fair housing bill that would make discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity unlawful. This bill failed to report out of committee on a 7–7 vote. We will see a similar bill in the House of Delegates in upcoming weeks.
TUESDAY We held a press conference Tuesday, where we were pleased to have a number of pro-equality legislators speak to their bills. This is an historic year for us - we have received bi-partisan support and have had more than 20 pro-LGBT bills introduced by a dozen lawmakers! (Check out our GA page for more details). THURSDAY Thursday saw us up early for committee meetings at 7:30 and 8:00.  Bills to ban sexual orientation change efforts were before House and Senate committees that morning.
  • HB 1385, introduced by Delegate Hope (D–47) was heard, but the committee did not yet vote.  (Unfortunately, we do not expect this extremely important bill that would protect Virginia's LGBT children to  pass out of subcommittee);
  • SB 988, introduced by Senator Lucas (D–18), failed to pass committee.
  • Wrapping up the week, SB 679, a bill allowing for second parent adoption introduced by Senator Howell (D-32), was heard in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee. While there was a great deal of vocal support from the Democratic members of the committee, in the end, the bill failed to report by one vote.
This week has shown us that anti-LGBT leaders in both the House and the Senate are simply not willing to support Virginia’s LGBT community. We had a disappointing week but hope that next week will make a turn for the better. As you can see, we sure have a lot on our plate.  Keep Equality Virginia at the General Assembly, and help support our advocacy and education efforts by donating today - we need your support! PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEK
  • Coming up on Monday are committee votes on workplace non-discrimination (SB 785 and SB 1181) bills, cleaning up the Code of Virginia to make references to husband and wife and mother and father gender neutral (SB 1211), and the House version of the hate crimes bill (HB 1494).
  • We also have our eyes on the lookout for HB 1409 and HB 1414, two discriminatory bills filed by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13).  Those bills have not yet been assigned to a subcommittee, but we didn't let that stop us from delivering a petition on Tuesday with 6,000 signature from Virginians in opposition to HB 1414.  We will do everything we can to stop that bill from passing.
If this week told us anything, it’s that your legislators need to hear from you. If you haven’t already, make sure you tell your legislator where you stand when it comes to LGBT equality. For an overview of where equality bills stand, please check out our General Assembly page.  If you want immediate updates about what’s going on in the General Assembly this session, you can follow us on Twitter. Thanks for all your support and involvement - sometimes the road is bumpy - but we won't stop working until Virginia is a welcoming and safe place for all LGBT individuals and families!

Equality Virginia's Day of Action is coming up on Feb. 3!  Make sure you join us in Richmond!