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New Democratic Majority In Virginia Could Pass Sweeping LGBTQ Discrimination Protections

Lawmakers at podium for LFBTQ Review
LGBTQ Preview. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

As the January General Assembly session approaches, Democratic lawmakers are introducing a series of anti-discrimination bills to protect LGBTQ people. 

Some of the bills already filed include making it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last year, anti-discrimination bills for LGBTQ people didn’t even get a hearing in House despite having bipartisan support. But with an incoming Democratic majority in both houses, advocates are hoping that will change.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said the protections were held up by a minority in the Republican leadership.

“The incoming minority leader Todd Gilbert has been explicit in his efforts to block LGBTQ people from being protected from discrimination in public employment and housing for over a decade,” Parrish said.

The two bills filed last year - non-discrimination in public employment and housing - have already been refiled for the upcoming session. Advocates and Democratic lawmakers, however, aren’t stopping there. 

A bill filed by Senator Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, would expand protections for LGBTQ people to all employment, public and private.

“So if you are gay or transgender in Virginia, there will be employment protections for you regardless of if you are working for the gas station down the street or the city hall where you live,” Parrish explained.

Ebbin’s bill would also make discrimination in public accommodation illegal. That means any business open to the public would have to serve LGBTQ people. Similar legislation has faced legal challenges in other states, most notably in Colorado where a baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Virginia lawmakers are also expected to file bills directing the Department of Education to create uniform guidelines for transgender students in public schools.