Senate Bill 868 completed its final chamber vote with bipartisan support on Wednesday and the bill now heads to Gov. Northam’s desk where he is expected to sign the legislation into law.
The historic vote means Virginia is set to become the first Southern state to secure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces. Senate Bill 868, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), will bring Virginia into the 21st century by modernizing existing human rights laws and creating new protections in private employment and public accommodations for all Virginians on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, marital status, disability and status as a veteran.
Governor Ralph Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw all pledged passing comprehensive protections for LGBTQ Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces as a top priority in 2020.
“This legislation will have a transformative and positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ Virginians,” said Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia, Executive Director. “Our organization has been proud to advocate for bills to make a more equal and inclusive Commonwealth for years. This new law sends a strong message that Virginia is welcoming to all, including LGBTQ individuals and families.”
“We just made Virginia a safer and more fair state for everyone,” said James Parrish, Director of the Virginia Values Coalition, a group of statewide and national organizations and individuals pushing for the protections. “We’re grateful for the lawmakers, faith leaders, allies, parents, law enforcement officers and people of all political ideologies who worked together to ensure we passed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians.”
“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,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. “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. No one should be discriminated against 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.”
“No one should be afraid to live their lives as their true selves,” said Mara Keisling, the executive director of The National Center for Transgender Equality. “Virginia is showing what’s possible when a broad and strong coalition comes together and says we will not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ people. At a time when LGBTQ people are being targeted across the country, Virginia shows that there is a better way and that progress toward a more fair and just world is possible.”
“The final passage of SB868 is a culmination of the efforts of a broad coalition of minority populations, dedicated activists and legislators, and so many members of our business community,” said Senator Ebbin. “SB868 is the most comprehensive civil rights bill in Virginia’s history — not just for LGBT Virginians, but for ethnic minorities, for veterans, and people of all faiths. The passage of this bill meets an urgent need in Virginia to protect our most vulnerable populations. In Virginia, a gay person can still be married on Sunday, and legally fired on Monday, evicted on Tuesday, and denied service at a restaurant that same night — until now. The passage of this bill is a message to the people of Virginia that our Commonwealth and America values and welcomes every individual for who they are.”
“Passing the Virginia Values Act is significant and means a more inclusive and stronger Virginia,” said Delegate Mark Sickles. “I am proud of our progress towards equality and look forward to continued support for HB 1663’s final passage as well.”
A final vote for the companion House Bill 1663, sponsored by Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), is expected next week.