Equality Virginia Pushes Antidiscrimination Bill
LGBT rights groups, led by Equality Virginia, the largest such group in the state, are rallying around an antidiscrimination bill ahead of the 2013 legislative session - just 30-days long, starting Jan. 9.
The bill, SB701, would prohibit employment discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, defining ’’sexual orientation’’ as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality or homosexuality, and also as gender identity or expression. Ahead of the 2013 session, the bill has already been introduced by Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond, Henrico, Charles City), and co-sponsored by the General Assembly’s sole out gay legislator, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington, Alexandria).
Three similar bills failed in the House of Delegates in the 2012 session, killed in committee. A Senate bill introduced last session was also killed after Republicans, who hold an 8-7 edge on the Committee on General Laws and Technology, forced a party-line vote on a motion denying debate on the bill. During the 2011 session, when Democrats controlled the upper chamber, a similar bill passed the Senate, but later died in committee in the House.
Kevin Clay, a spokesman for Equality Virginia, says that along with legislative action in the General Assembly, the organization is trying to secure employment protections for LGBT residents in eight local jurisdictions. But Clay also cautioned that due to a law on the books known as Dillon’s Rule, which limits the authority of local government, such local ordinances have little legal standing.
Notably, the push for SB701 follows news of discrimination - whether actual or perceived - against LGBT Virginians.
In one case, a former women’s volleyball coach at Richmond’s Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), James Finley, says he was fired Nov. 19 because he is gay. Finley also told ESPN in a Dec. 5 interview that the university’s new athletic director demoted the only other out gay employee under his supervision shortly after meeting her partner. VCU President Michael Rao advised the university community in a Nov. 30 email that Finley’s firing is being investigated.
In May, the fiercely anti-gay Family Foundation led a fight to keep Tracy Thorne-Begland, a Navy veteran and a state prosecutor at the time, from becoming Virginia’s first out gay judge. A temporary appointment sidestepped the GOP opposition in the General Assembly, though he faces a confirmation vote in 2013.