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LGBTQ groups rally for anti-discrimination bill in Virginia

Currently only about 60 percent of the state’s 21 million residents live in areas that have passed local equal employment ordinances that cover LGBT individuals. (Ludovic Bertron / CC BY 2.0)
Currently only about 60 percent of the state’s 21 million residents live in areas that have passed local equal employment ordinances that cover LGBT individuals. (Ludovic Bertron / CC BY 2.0)(WJHG)
Published: Jan. 15, 2020 at 3:49 PM EST
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Activists gathered at the Virginia State Capitol Tuesday morning to back a new senate bill that would protect LGBTQ Virginians under anti-discrimination laws.

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria introduced Senate Bill 868 - also known as the Virginia Values Act - on Friday. It seeks to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

“In Charlottesville, I was kicked off a bus, or I’m not served when I go into places,” said Luca Connolly, an LGBTQ rights advocate.

Connolly has dedicated much of her life trying to help others overcome those struggles:

“Time and time again, I’m seeing my clients come in the door and say 'I have these degrees, and I have all these references, and I have all of this experience, but I cannot be taken seriously in interviews or I am not given a job," she said.

Senator Ebbin believes his bill could change that.

“It’s 2020 and you can still be fired or not hired, or denied housing, or kicked out of any business," said James Parrish of the Virginia Values Coalition, a combination of gay rights group banding together to plead to lawmakers to push this bill along.

“The majority of Virginians have supported passing this for years, and with the new leadership in the House of Delegates and the Senate, and with the support of the governor, we are confident that this is the year that we’re going to take it to the finish line," Parrish said.

But the bill has its critics. Some say it paves the way for churches, religious charities, and private schools to be sued if they refuse to hire or decline to provide services to LGBTQ individuals.

In regards to the bill, Victoria Cobb with the Family Foundation issued a statement that said, in part, that the "bill and others like it weaponizes government officials to punish American business owners for operating according to their faith principles.”

Connolly adds that the argument shouldn’t be political.

“These are rights, right? People have a right to have a job, to have safe housing, to be able to go for a walk or take a bus,” she said.

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