Tuesday last week was "Crossover" day in the Virginia General Assembly, which is the day when the two legislative houses of original introduction must complete work on their bills. Unfortunately, Virginia is maintaining it's record for being an extremely anti-gay state and the effort to enact legislation that would improve the lives of LGBT Virginians has once again met with almost no success in the General Assembly.
Equality Virginia's Chief Executive Officer, Jon Blair, has reported that one of the two bills to provide equity in group life insurance had passed the Senate and is pending in the House. All of the other bills on the Equality Virginia legislative agenda - a total of ten were introduced - failed to pass in their respective houses of introduction and they are "dead" for this session of the legislature except for an anti-bullying bill which has been substantially amended to delete out all express LGBT protections.
After the jump are highlights of how some of the bills were treated by the members of the General Assembly:
- NONDISCRIMINATION IN PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT HB 2385 (EBBIN) - This bill was a number one priority and would have added protections for state workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation . A major goal was to get a fair hearing for the bill in the House this year. This did not happen and the bill was tabled in committee, even though Equality Virginia testified in favor of it, as did the Director of the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management and Robley Jones from the Virginia Education Association. In addition, the AARP and the Virginia Governmental Employees Association also were cited as in support of the legislation.
- GROUP LIFE INSURANCE HB 1726 (RUST) and SB 945 (HOWELL) - Would allow employers to extend group life insurance policies to any class of persons as agreed to by the employer and its insurer as is now the case with group health insurance. The Senate passed the Senate version of this bill, SB 945, by a vote of 32-7. The House version of the bill, HB 1726, failed in a subcommittee of House Commerce and Labor on a tie vote on a motion to report.
- HOUSING DISCRIMINATION HB 1625 (ENGLIN) and HB 2668 (SCOTT) - Each of these bills would have provided some degree of protection against housing discrimination for LGBT Virginians. The Englin bill would have given localities flexibility to extend protection from housing discrimination to groups not covered by the state housing law. The bill was tabled in the Housing Subcommittee of House General Laws on an unrecorded voice vote. The Scott bill would have added "sexual orientation" to the Virginia Fair Housing Law covering all rental and sales transactions. The bill was tabled without significant discussion in a subcommittee of House General Laws.
- STANDARDS FOR MODEL ANTI-BULLYING POLICY HB 1624 (ENGLIN) - This bill would establish standards for the State Board of Education to follow in amending its current model student conduct policies addressing bullying. As introduced, the bill would require the model policy to specifically address bullying directed at a student because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill was amended substantially by the patron and the House Education Committee after introduction. The only new language left in the bill adds "the use of electronic means for purposes of bullying, harassment, and intimidation" to the topics that must be addressed in the model student conduct policy.
I think you get the drift: In Virginia, the General Assembly puts little or no value on the lives and rights of LGBT Virginians and their families. Bills are routinely killed in committee, often safely outside of public view. My advice to LGBT citizens thinking of moving to Virginia: Think long and hard.
Washington, D.C., and Maryland are much more welcoming.