Post submitted by former HRC Communications Campaign Director Brandon Lorenz
Today, HRC and Equality Virginia, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, called on the Virginia General Assembly to continue to work towards fairness and equality by putting the brakes on yet another anti-LGBT bill scheduled for a hearing today, HB 773.
HB 773 would allow taxpayer-funded service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people based on their religious beliefs. The hearing comes after two anti-LGBT bills (HB 781 and HB 385) were defeated in committee this week.
“The vote to defeat HB 781 and HB 385 was a great, if only partial, victory for fairness and equality. The House Committee on General Laws did the right thing by deciding that writing anti-LGBT discrimination into the law was the wrong direction to take Virginia,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “The House Committee on General Laws should continue it’s work by halting bills that would not only damage the state's economy and reputation, but more importantly, allow taxpayer-funded service providers to use religious beliefs to discriminate and deny services to LGBT people.”
“Equality Virginia applauds the House Committee on General Laws for accurately representing the majority of Virginia by voting against HB 781 and HB 385. These destructive and discriminatory bills would have damaged Virginia’s reputation as an inclusive and open state for all to live, work, and play,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “While we celebrate the defeat of these two harmful bills, we recognize that our work is far from over. We are still facing anti-LGBT bills like HB 773 and must continue building support for legislation that would move equality forward in the commonwealth.”
As introduced, HB 781 would force transgender women to use the men’s room, putting transgender people at additional risk for harassment, discrimination and violence. HB 385 would prevent any political subdivision (including a locality or school board) from adopting an ordinance or policy prohibiting discrimination on a basis not currently included in state law (including sexual orientation or gender identity). Both bad bills were introduced following a ground-swell in the number of school districts working to ensure that their LGBT students and staff are not subject to anti-LGBT discrimination. Approximately 25% of Virginia’s public school students are currently protected by policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity, up from less than 2% in 2012.
The Virginia Senate recently passed two LGBT non-discrimination bills, SB 67 and SB 12. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year but failed to pass the House of Delegates.
Among the anti-LGBT bills introduced in Virginia are attempts to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed at authorizing individuals, businesses and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; a bill to prevent state universities and public schools from adopting LGBT non-discrimination protections; a bill to prevent transgender Virginians from changing their birth certificates to match their identity and multiple bills seeking to restrict transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity.
A recent survey released in Indiana showed that anti-LGBT religious refusal bills cost the state as much as $60 million in convention revenue alone from lost business. The survey from “Visit Indy” found that “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.”
The attacks on fairness and equality in Virginia are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 150 anti-LGBT bills in 30 states. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.