General Assembly Digest: 01.25.2013

SB701 Passes Senate! / Next Stop: House

Take a moment to celebrate today!  Because of you, SB701 just passed through the Senate.  This is only the third time a pro-LGBT bill has passed through either chamber of the General Assembly in the ENTIRE history of Virginia and you did this!

Passing SB701 out of the Senate was no easy task, but now -- the real challenge begins.  We must build support in the House of Delegates to protect Virginia’s LGBT state employees.  Send your delegate a message NOW asking for them to vote YES on SB701.  While you’re at it, you can check to see how your senator voted today. This is about fairness and protection for all Virginians.  Hard work doesn’t discriminate, so why should our government? Can you keep this momentum going by joining with $10, $35 or more?  The next few weeks are key in winning this fight and we'll need your help to get the word out. Let’s move Virginia forward together!

Tell Your Delegate “NO on HB1617”

Equality Virginia opposes this legislation that allows publicly funded groups to participate in discriminatory acts. While the First Amendment protects the right of student organizations to hold and advocate whatever ideas they choose, their discriminatory acts should not be entitled to government recognition and funding. This bill is not about free expression, but about universities’ right to refrain from sponsoring discriminatory conduct. Tell your delegate discrimination has no place in publicly funded student organizations.

“Did they just say that?” Monday’s SB701 Committee Hearing

During Monday’s meeting, we heard some shell-shocking remarks that made us go, “Wow!” and “Say what?” from several folks on the committee:
  • Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27): “YEA” - It was Sen. Vogel’s surprise vote that got SB701 out of the General Laws & Technology Committee.  Previously, she did not support similar legislation, but we encourage our membership to express their gratitude for her change of heart.  If you haven’t sent a message to your own senator, see how they voted and follow-up with an e-mail now.
  • Sen. Dick Black (R-13): “Gays make more money and therefore don’t need protections.” – Black said he read in the Washington Blade that gay people make more money (not just 10% more, he said 40% more!) and therefore there is no need for additional workplace protections.    Not true. The Williams Institute, a research clearinghouse focused on LGBT Americans, clears this myth showing gay and lesbian families have a median income of $10,000 less according to the census!
  • Sen. Richard Stuart (R-28): “This is a Christmas tree of preferences, and this is a preference.” – The senator made this remark regarding the addition of sexual orientation into state employment protections.  Research has been going back and forth for decades whether or not sexuality is biologically inherent, but Stuart certainly made his opinion known.
  • Sen. Walter Stosch (R-12): “I’m voting against the bill because I agree with the governor.” – In a disappointing vote, Sen. Stosch found a myriad of excuses for not supporting this bill although he received messages from over 1,500 supporters to protect LGBT employees.  Governors since Holton have protected state employees from discrimination in employment. Warner and Kaine extended this protection to gay and lesbian employees through executive orders while McDonnell only issued a directive which does hold as much legal weight.  Executive orders and directives change with each administration. It is now time to make this policy permanent.
  • The Family Foundation & Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists: “This bill will have unforeseeable consequences.” – The only two groups speaking in opposition of SB701 made arguments for hidden agendas (umm – protecting hard working Virginians?!?) and costly litigation for the government, which are both unfounded and scare tactics used against our community.  To the contrary, workplaces that create an inclusive LGBT environment have been shown to decrease legal vulnerability while enhancing reputation, increasing job satisfaction and boosting employee morale and productivity.

Making Headlines This Session

With Tracy Thorne-Begland’s confirmation last week and our positive momentum for protecting state employees, Virginia’s LGBT community has been in the spotlight.  The Virginian-Pilot gives a detailed recap of the Thorne-Begland vote here and NBC29 in Charlottesville shines a light on last week’s press conference supporting SB701. “Our president spoke eloquently in his inauguration speech by saying ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law’ – This bill is an opportunity for our lawmakers at home to give all LGBT Virginians an opportunity for fairness and job security,” Executive Director James Parrish told LGBT Weekly about SB701’s move to the Senate floor. Take a look at our media center for our full press archive.

During session, take action and stay updated on the General Assembly by visiting our online resource center here.