LGBTQ advocates in Virginia will have to wait another year to pass historic nondiscrimination legislation after Republicans killed four pro-equality bills on the same day.
On Thursday, a subcommittee in the House of Delegates single-handedly eliminated every LGBTQ-inclusive measure put forward this year. Lawmakers in the House General Laws Committee shot down a bill from Del. Mark Levine which would have banned anti-LGBTQ bias in housing, public accommodation, and the workplace.
A pair of bills introduced by Dels. Jennifer Wexton and Marcus Simon would have amended the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. A fourth proposal from Sen. Adam Ebbin banned discrimination against LGBTQ people employed by the state.
Ebbin’s and Wexton’s bills were approved by the Senate last month with bipartisan support but were voted down this week along party lines.
Republicans wouldn’t have the chance to sound off on a fifth measure from Del. Elizabeth Guzman, which would have added gender identity protections to statewide housing laws. Guzman removed it from consideration prior to a planned vote.
That means Virginia will remainfor another year at leastone of 28 states without a statewide law on the books protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
Advocacy groups blasted the Virginia GOP following the bills’ failure.
In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign criticized House Speaker Kirk Cox for pushing a vote on the four bills “swiftly and with little public notice.” Deputy Press Secretary Aaron Rodriguez claimed Cox rushed a vote in the General Laws Committee “with just over 24 hours notice,” all but ensuring its failure.
“We hoped this year would be a turning point, but once again, Speaker Cox is playing politics with LGBT people’s basic civil rights,” added Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a press release.
“These common-sense bills would have been important steps towards a more equal Virginia, including protecting LGBT people from discrimination in public employment and housing,” he continued. “It is truly disgraceful for sitting members of the Virginia House to vote down such fair-minded legislation at the will of the speaker.”
Republicans, however, felt a pro-LGBTQ bill would harm religious groups in the state. Opponents argued these bills might, for instance, force institutions like Liberty University to let two students in a same-sex marriage room together in campus housing.
While affirming the need to “treat everybody with dignity and respect,” Republican Del. Jason S. Miyares said he would vote against all such bills until a compromise is struck.
After the bills were voted down, Democratic Del. Delores McQuinn gave an emotional testimonial on the need to safeguard against prejudice, telling colleagues she was “so saddened that we have not gotten farther than this.”
“I’ve been discriminated against, [and] it’s been a double discrimination,” said McQuinn, who is an ally to the queer and trans community. “I’m an African-American and I am a woman. And it seems like these systems of hierarchy that have been established over the years do a disservice to us as a commonwealth.”
LGBTQ supporters in the chambers reportedly shouted “Shame! Shame!” as the legislation was defeated.
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