FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 12, 2015
Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816
RICHMOND – On Thursday, Senate Bill 785, a bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public employees from workplace discrimination, was tabled in the House General Laws subcommittee 4, effectively killing it for the remainder of this session.
“It is shameful that this subcommittee can’t come together in support of a commonsense bill that reflects the beliefs held by the majority of Virginians,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “Ideology should not stand in the way of achieving fairness and equality – something that would benefit all Virginians.”
The bill, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin, with an identical version filed by Senator Adam Ebbin, extends protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for Virginia’s public employees. It passed the Senate with bipartisan support after Lt. Governor Ralph Northam issued a tie-breaking vote. Earlier this session, Republican Ron Villanueva and Democrat Ken Plum introduced similar bills that were also tabled in the same House subcommittee.
Shortly after his inauguration, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order One that bans discrimination against LGBT state employees. SB 785 would have made those protections permanent and expanded such protections to all public employees.
When polled, a clear majority of Virginians voice their belief that LGBT Virginians should have the right to work without facing discrimination.
“Virginians want to live in a commonwealth that is welcoming and inclusive. Today, the subcommittee members missed an opportunity to give LGBT Virginians equal chance for fairness and job security. Public employees must now go yet another year without workplace protections,” said Parrish.
Even as the anti-equality majority in the House of Delegates once again has stalled progress toward equality and fairness, Equality Virginia has been working closely with members of the business community that are supportive of workplace diversity and are committed to making Virginia’s business climate conducive to economic success.
In January of 2015, Equality Virginia awarded five Richmond based Fortune 500 companies – Altria, Capital One, CarMax, Dominion, and Genworth – with Virginia Fairness Accreditation for their policies that clearly welcome LGBT employees. The majority of Fortune 500 companies have policies in place to protect their LGBT employees. Also in January, together with equality groups from North Carolina and South Carolina, Equality Virginia launched Equality Means Business, a program that recognizes storefront business that have non-discrimination policies in place and have pledged to welcome LGBT customers and clients.
“These companies know that policies welcoming diversity and inclusion are not only good for business, but are the right thing to do. It’s time for the Commonwealth of Virginia catch up to the business community,” said Parrish.