The Virginia Values Act passed Thursday in both the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support, a historic moment after a years-long battle to secure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians in employment, housing, and public spaces.
With passage, Virginia will become the first state in decades to pass such a law from scratch. The bills now face final procedural steps before going to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, who has made clear that he will sign the Virginia Values Act into law.
Senate Bill 868, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and companion House Bill 1663, sponsored by Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), will bring Virginia into the 21st century by modernizing existing human rights laws to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in their daily lives, and also create new protections for all Virginians in employment and public accommodations like restaurants, shops and other public spaces.
“Virginia is home to over 250,000 LGBTQ adults and this legislation will have a profound impact on these individuals, their families, and their communities,” said Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia, Executive Director. “Our organization has been advocating for bills that would protect LGBTQ people for years. We’re very proud that this legislation also includes protections for people who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, including people of color, women, veterans, and people with disabilities.”
For years, House leadership blocked bills like the Virginia Values Act, even though a majority of Virginians support nondiscrimination protections. With final passage, Virginia will become the first state in the South with nondiscrimnation protections for LGBTQ people, the first state in years to add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing law, and the first state since 1993 to add a prohbibition on discrimination in public accommodations where none existed before.
“Every Virginian deserves to live and work without the fear of harassment, discrimination, or violence,” said James Parrish, Director of the Virginia Values Coalition, a group of statewide and national organizations and individuals pushing for the protections. “We couldn’t have come this far without the support of our lawmakers, faith leaders, allies, parents, law enforcement officers, veterans and people of all political ideologies committed to protecting LGBTQ Virginians.”
“This is a historic day and bright moment for the whole country as Virginia prepares to become the first Southern state to ensure full, comprehensive protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. “The momentum for freedom and fairness in Virginia will reverberate across America as ongoing proof that people of all beliefs and backgrounds — living in red, blue, and purple states — can and do support nondiscrimination protections. Lawmakers in other states and in Congress should follow Virginia’s lead and immediately update our nation’s laws to ensure basic protections that allow every LGBTQ person to live with dignity and respect.”
“Today, history was made in Virginia, and LGBTQ Virginians are one step closer to being protected from discrimination simply because of who they are or whom they love,”said HRC President Alphonso David. “This day would not have been possible without the years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, or the voters in Virginia that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises. HRC is proud to have worked to elect pro-equality lawmakers across Virginia in 2019, and we are thrilled to see that effort culminate in this important victory today. We’re especially grateful for the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Senator Adam Ebbin, and Delegate Mark Sickles, each of whom made this day possible. We also thank the patrons in each chamber, Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Jennifer McClellan in the Senate and Dels. Mark Levine and Delores McQuinn in the House.”
“Discrimination against our gay, lesbian and transgender friends, family, neighbors and co-workers in employment, housing and public accommodation has always been abhorrent and unacceptable,” said House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. “Today, we have laid a marker down that every Virginian can work hard, earn a living wage, and live their lives without fear of discrimination based on who they are or who they love. The sun shines brighter on the Commonwealth of Virginia with the House’s passage of this landmark legislation. Thank you to House Chief Patron Mark Sickles, Chief Co-Patrons Delores McQuinn and Mark Levine, and all of our partners and allies who made this momentous day possible.”
“The passage of the Virginia Values Act ensures that LGBTQ Virginians have comprehensive protections in employment, housing, and public spaces,” said Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. “To be economically competitive, we have to be open and welcoming to all Virginians. I thank the Virginia Values Coalition for being a partner in our fight to make the Commonwealth a more inclusive place to live and work.”
“Today we took another giant step along the path towards a more equal and just Virginia,” said Delegate Mark Sickles. “I am proud of our progress and look forward to a strong bipartisan vote for HB 1663 on final passage tomorrow.”
Our journey is not done until our every person — members of the LGBTQ community, religious minorities, and veterans included — are treated like everyone else under the law said Senator Ebbin. “This isn’t a theoretical issue, discrimination is happening today. Until we shine a light on this issue, until we drive it out of our state, Virginians will continue to suffer the psychological, physical, and economic vandalism simply because of who they are or who they love.”
“LGBTQ rights are human rights,” said Delegate Mark Levine. “We have made historic strides this session in our goal to comprehensively protect the Rainbow community from discrimination. The Virginia Values Act will take us one step closer to ensuring that no Virginian is discriminated against for who they are. Let’s get it done.”
“We stand here today on the cusp of making history,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko. “This bill will at long last prohibit all forms of discrimination in public and private employment, housing, and banking on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Having worked since I was a child to promote fairness and inclusion and continuing to hold steadfast my belief that diversity and inclusivity are hallmarks of a healthy community, it fills me with pride and joy to vote YES on the Virginia Values Act.”