Equality Virginia Welcomes Amazon As A Partner in Ensuring LGBT Virginians Are Protected from Discrimination
Virginia is on the verge of getting a major new economic partner in the work of ensuring LGBT Virginians are protected from discrimination. Amazon announced this week it would split its long-awaited second headquarters (or “HQ2”) between Long Island City, New York, and Crystal City, Virginia. That will net our commonwealth at least 25,000 new jobs—and potentially a major new business voice speaking out for enacting statewide LGBT nondiscrimination protections. During the year-long search to land a location for HQ2, Amazon’s search committee reportedly asked public officials about “compatible cultural and community environment”—something many observers saw as code for LGBT inclusion. Company officials also appeared to balk at North Carolina’s anti-transgender House Bill 2 and an anti-LGBT adoption bill in Georgia when they visited those states . Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, was also a prominent voice in the movement for marriage equality. He and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, famously donated $2.5 million to support marriage equality at the ballot in 2012 in their home state of Washington. State lawmakers are poised to pass bipartisan legislation that would protect gay and transgender Virginians from being fired from public employment or denied housing just because of who they are. Legislation passed the Senate this year with bipartisan support, but was defeated in the House because of political interference from Speaker Kirk Cox. The Virginia legislature is poised to pass these protections again during the next legislative session, and codify our shared values of diversity and inclusion—values that Amazon has a long history of supporting.
“Virginia prides itself on being a welcoming and inclusive state to all people, and we are proud to welcome Amazon HQ2 to the commonwealth. All Virginians have the right to earn a living regardless of who they are and who they love. … We are eager to work alongside Amazon and the growing consensus of business leaders to ensure that all Virginians are treated with dignity and respect.” — James Parrish, Executive Director, Equality VirginiaAnd in 2017, Bezos received the Human Rights Campaign’s National Equality Award for his commitment to LGBT equality. The company itself scores a 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, meaning it has a robust internal LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy and provides equal benefits to LGBT workers, among other things. Equality Virginia is excited to work alongside our partners to bring Amazon into programs supporting this critical legislation protecting LGBT Virginians in housing and employment. These programs include Virginia Competes, a business coalition that advocates for the expansion of LGBT rights and protections in the commonwealth, and Virginia Beach for Fairness, which is working to build support among local lawmakers. The Virginia Competes coalition includes businesses such as Capital One, Dominion Energy, and Carmax. It provides a unified voice for the business community and its support for LGBT protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. Businesses can join Virginia Competes by signing this statement of support. When it comes to being able to earn a living, have a place to live, or be served by a business or government office, LGBT people should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against. Equality Virginia is excited to work with Amazon and other business and local partners to create a safer and more equal Virginia for all people to live, work, and play.