EV Statement on SB 263

James Parrish, the Executive Director of  Equality Virginia, released the following statement about the decision of the Virginia Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology to kill SB 263, which would have protected public employees from discrimination:

Yesterday, Virginia's gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) people learned, again, that they continue to be considered second class citizens by the Virginia legislature.

Last year, and the year before, the Senate of Virginia voted to accord to GLBT employees of state agencies the basic human right to be able to go to work each day without fear of being fired.

This year, the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology failed to report SB 263, a bill affirming this basic human right, on an 8-7 party line vote.

SB 263 is a simple bill, sponsored by Senators Donald McEachin and Adam Ebbin, that expresses a state policy with which 90% of Virginians agree – that no state or local employee should be subject to discrimination on the job, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Virginia currently has no legislative policy protecting any public employee from discrimination on the job (whether based on sexual orientation, or age, race, religion, disability, or gender), and Virginia is one of only 20 states where you can still be fired from a state or local job simply because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. This reality undercuts the Commonwealth’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest to be our college professors, our teachers and our other public employees.  It adversely affects our competitiveness and, ultimately, holds the potential to undercut the quality of our higher education institutions.

This reality is beginning to be felt in ways not anticipated by those whose silence allows this “easy bigotry of inaction,” as the Roanoke Times has called it, to continue.

Businesses understand that state policies can adversely affect the business climate, especially with respect to moving corporate human capital across state lines.

These are “facts of life” in Virginia which, among other things, require GLBT families to invest significant dollars in legal fees for contracts and other legal documents necessary to ensure their family’s legal and financial stability, and leave the same families open to the insecurity of going to work each day not knowing whether a key breadwinner might be fired just because of who he or she is.

Passage of SB 263 would have been a small step forward in ensuring that Virginia is truly an inclusive Commonwealth of opportunity.   The failure of the Senate to endorse this concept, as it has the past two years, is a major step backward.

Founded in 1989 as Virginians for Justice, Equality Virginia is the only state-wide, non-partisan education, outreach and advocacy organization seeking equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians. Equality Virginia believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.