2/14/2015: This Week at the General Assembly

After bringing you good news two weeks in a row, this week we were harshly reminded of the reality we face at Virginia's General Assembly.  Even the pro-LGBT bills that passed the Senate last week were swiftly killed when they reached a House subcommittee.  While it is shameful and discouraging that the anti-LGBT majority can so quickly vote to keep discrimination alive, this bad news only invigorates us to continue to fight for LGBT equality.  Here's a breakdown of this week:
  • On Wednesday, Senator Ebbin's bill (SB 1211) to add gender-neutral language to Virginia's marriage laws, died in a House Courts subcommittee.  We agree with Senator Ebbin, that "we owe the Virginians who are legally married couples recognition under the law."  A year ago we all celebrated the decision of Judge Arenda Wright Allen, and four months ago we finally gained the freedom to marry.  But, our laws are still outdated - our work is not yet done.
  • On Thursday afternoon, we turned our attention to workplace fairness.  As the House debated the budget, Delegate Scott Surovell introduced a floor amendment that would protect LGBT state employees from discrimination.  While it didn't come close to passing, it did receive support from both sides of the aisle, showing that some lawmakers are ready to move Virginia forward.
  • [caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo credit: GayRVA (www.gayrva.com)[/caption] On Thursday evening, Senator McEachin's workplace non-discrimination bill (SB 785) was heard in a House General Laws subcommittee.  We were there to remind the committee that workplace discrimination against LGBT people does exist, and that the majority of Virginians and Virginia's top employers believe in workplace fairness.  Our statistics and facts fell on deaf ears.  Instead, the majority of the subcommittee was more receptive to the Family Foundation's (false) argument that "this is a solution looking for a problem."  We were grateful that Delegate Delores McQuinn stood up against the majority of the subcommittee and stated for the record that "at some point, this General Assembly is going to have to advance the cause and make sure that discrimination anywhere is wrong, against anyone."  Arguing against the bill was Delegate Ramadan, who said that as a minority he has also faced discrimination, but even though there is "no room for discrimination," adding to the code is not the answer. Respectfully, we disagree.
Despite these losses, each year we get a step closer to accomplishing equality for LGBT Virginians.  At this time last year, we were nervously waiting for a decision on marriage equality.  Now it has become a reality.  My hope is that a few years down the road, we will look back on these bills as a challenge that we finally were able to accomplish.  It will take time, advocacy, voting, funding, education, and hard work - but we will get there.  As Senator McEachin said, "we'll keep pushing until we get...to the other side." Next Saturday, we'll give you a recap of the 2015 General Assembly session. In the meantime, we still have a lot of work to do as we continue to move Equality Forward. Stay tuned.