Incoming House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn joined Equality Virginia and other Virginia Values Coalition members to highlight the importance of passing LGBTQ protections in the upcoming General Assembly today. During the 2020 legislative session, the Coalition, which consists of statewide and national organizations and individuals across the Commonwealth, will advocate for passage of comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians.
“I’m dedicated to building a more inclusive and equal Commonwealth for everyone,” said Filler-Corn. “We have an opportunity to send a message that Virginia welcomes all people to live, work, and raise a family. I’m committed to passing comprehensive nondiscrimination protections in the upcoming General Assembly that will protect LGBTQ Virginians from discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, and public spaces.”
Virginia is home to 185,000 LGBTQ adults. Under current Virginia law – as in 29 other U.S. states – LGBTQ people are not explicitly protected from discrimination, which means they can be fired, evicted or denied service in restaurants or stores. The Virginia Values Coalition is calling on state lawmakers to pass a bipartisan, common sense law to protect LGBTQ Virginians from discrimination in their daily lives.
Thursday’s event included a variety of Coalition members, including the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Virginia, Freedom for All Americans, ACLU of Virginia and the National Center for Transgender Equality, as well as local advocates and business leaders.
“Passing comprehensive protections for LGBTQ Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces will be a top priority for Virginia’s Senate when the General Assembly convenes next year,” said incoming Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw. “This is not only the right thing to do, it’s one of the most effective ways to create jobs, attract talent, boost tourism and drive innovation. I look forward to working with our leaders across the Commonwealth to make nondiscrimination protections a reality and ensure that all LGBTQ Virginians are treated fairly and equally at work and in our communities.”
“Right now, LGBTQ Virginians can be fired, evicted or denied service in public places like restaurants, shops and even doctors' offices just because of who they are or who they love,” said James Parrish, incoming Virginia Values Coalition director. “When voters elected pro-equality majorities in the Virginia House and Senate, they signaled their strong support for passing protections for LGBTQ individuals. It is imperative lawmakers pass these protections during the General Assembly.”
Parrish is stepping down from his leadership role at Equality Virginia on Jan. 1 to oversee the Coalition’s push for statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians. The Coalition is working to raise awareness about the challenges facing LGBTQ Virginians through an ongoing advocacy campaign.
“Nondiscrimination protections are long overdue for Virginia’s LGBTQ community,” said Equality Virginia’s incoming executive director Vee Lamneck. “Equality Virginia is proud to work alongside the Virginia Values Coalition to ensure these comprehensive protections in the upcoming General Assembly.”
“The fact that discrimination against LGBTQ people is not against the law in Virginia causes me great anxiety,” said Zakia McKensey, founder of Nationz Foundation, a Richmond nonprofit dedicated to HIV-prevention education. “We need a law to protect us from the many obstacles we are forced to deal with in our daily lives.”
Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David added: “We don’t just build political power to have it, we build political power to use it. And today, we are seeing the results of the change that so many helped make possible. At a time when we are working to pass the Equality Act in Washington, Virginia has an opportunity to be an example for the nation by passing these crucial protections. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also supported by approximately 70 percent of Virginians, including a majority of Republican voters.”
“Discrimination is a real and urgent problem that impacts millions of LGBTQ people across the country,” said Freedom for All Americans CEO and National Campaign Director Kasey Suffredini. “With Virginia's newly elected pro-LGBTQ majority in the State House, Virginia has an opportunity to lead the country in 2020 with passage of fully comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, and can spark a fire that fuels other states and our national leaders in Congress to act, so every LGBTQ person in every zip code ultimately secures these same protections. FFAA deeply thanks the diverse coalition of LGBTQ Virginians, faith leaders, business leaders, and other supportive Virginia community members for coming together to ensure dignity and respect for all of their neighbors, and we share the urgency to get this done.”
“All people should be treated fairly and equally and have the opportunity to earn a living, access housing and participate fully in society. Virginia’s lawmakers must pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals in the upcoming General Assembly,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Claire Gastañaga.
“Transgender people in the Commonwealth face disrespect, discrimination and violence every day,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It’s time for Virginia to step up and pass nondiscrimination legislation that will show trans Virginians that they are welcome and that their government will help protect them from discrimination.”
Virginians can voice their support for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections at www.vavalues.org.