Virginia Continues to be a Leader on Advancing LGBTQ Equality in the South

by HRC Staff

Written by Narissa Rahaman, Associate Regional Campaign Director

Today, April 11, 2021, marks one year since the Virginia Values Act — a comprehensive bipartisan law that expanded non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and added all-new protections in employment and public accommodations for all Virginians — was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Virginia continues to be a leader on LGBTQ equality with another historic slate of pro-LGBTQ bills signed into law this year, including the following:

  • A bill prohibiting so-called LGBTQ panic defense. The “panic defense,” which is defined by the LGBT Bar as “a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder,” is now banned. Virginia becomes the first state in the South to ban so-called LGBTQ panic defense.
  • A bill modernizing Virginia’s HIV criminalization law. The bill included several updates to the Virginia Code aimed at reducing HIV stigma and decreasing barriers to prevention services and treatment by modernizing statute language and testing requirements. In addition to removing discriminatory laws that are often used against marginalized populations, like sex workers and people who use drugs, the legislation helps bring HIV in line with other sexually transmitted infections for which there is preventative care and treatment. Virginia becomes the first state in the South to modernize its HIV law.
  • A bill expanding the step-parent adoption provision to include non-biological and/or non-gestational parents.
  • A bill establishing a Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board. The Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board will advise the governor on the economic, professional, cultural, educational and governmental issues as it relates to the LGBTQ community.
  • A bill updating the Older Americans Act to include LGBTQ seniors. This update will provide equal access to aging services and resources like Meals on Wheels, transportation assistance, legal aid and more.

In November, Virginians will head to the polls to elect a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. They’ll also be voting for who will represent them in the House of Delegates.

To continue the progress we’ve seen in Virginia, it’s absolutely crucial we elect (and reelect) delegates who will champion progressive legislation in Richmond and a governor who will sign pro-equality bills. Ahead of the June 8 primary, we hope you’ll take a moment to register to vote or update your voter registration at

There is still so much to do, in Virginia and around the country, but today we take a moment to celebrate.

For more information on how you can help elect pro-equality candidates in Virginia, please contact Narissa Rahaman at