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Virginia lawmakers send 'Virginia Values Act' to the governor

Photo: MGN Online/torbakhopper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Photo: MGN Online/torbakhopper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0(WKYT)
Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 3:57 PM EST
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UPDATE (Feb. 26):

A bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Virginia's anti-discrimination law is now on its way to the desk of Governor Ralph Northam.

passed the House of Delegates on Monday with an amended version of the initial Senate bill. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, the Virginia Senate agreed to the amended version of the bill passed by the House.

The legislation that cleared the Senate in a final vote Wednesday prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public or private employment, public spaces and credit transactions. It also lays out causes of action that would allow individuals to sue over alleged discrimination.

Opponents have raised religious liberty concerns about the measure.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said he supports the bill and is expected to sign it.

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Feb. 24

Virginia lawmakers have passed a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the commonwealth's anti-discrimination law.

The bill, known as the 'Virginia Values Act,' passed in the Senate on a 30-9 vote earlier this month and, with an amendment, in the House of Delegates on a 54-46 vote Monday.

next has to have differences between the version passed in the Senate and the version passed in the House reconciled before it heads to Governor Ralph Northam's desk for a signature.

The bill would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes when it comes to discrimination related to housing, employment and public accommodations.

It also gives the attorney general's office the power to take action against anyone “engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance" to the rights guaranteed by the new law.

The ACLU and other human rights groups lauded the bill's passage as a historic win that makes Virginia the first state in the South to enact such protections.

There's also a House version of the bill —

— which is currently in a committee in the Senate.

The next steps are all but guaranteed by each chamber passing their own version of the bill before Crossover Day.

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, was “cautiously optimistic” at the start of the legislative session but said during the organization’s annual lobby event earlier this month that there is much to celebrate.

Lamneck noted that most of the bills supported by Equality Virginia, a group that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community, are still alive and advancing. Last session most of those bills failed to pass from Republican-led subcommittees.

“This legislation will ensure that people are not discriminated against in housing, employment, public spaces and credit,” Lamneck said.

Some of the legislation that has advanced in the General Assembly — mostly with bipartisan support — includes two bills introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax.

would make it easier to change a person’s name and gender on a birth certificate.

would make the Department of Education create and implement policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public schools; a duplicate bill in the House also passed.

The Senate also passed

, introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, which would ban the practice of conversion therapy in Virginia on patients under age 18. A similar bill introduced by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, recently passed the House. On Tuesday, the House passed

introduced by Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or status as a transgender individual.

“We speak with many individuals from across the Commonwealth who have shared with us their experiences of discrimination,” Lamneck said. “And not just that, but the fact that they live in fear, day to day experiencing discrimination and so the Virginia Values Act will have a profoundly positive impact on the community.”

A

replacing terms such as “husband and wife” with gender- neutral terms also passed the House of Delegates on the final day it could, Crossover Day, Feb. 11.