Virginia becomes first southern state to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination

Cecilie Johnsen

The law will take place on 1 July.

Virginia has become the first southern state to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the fields of housing, public and private employment, public accommodations, and access to credit. The state’s governor, Ralph Northam, signed the bill yesterday (11 April).

In a press release, Northam said: “This legislation sends a strong, clear message — Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family.

“We are building an inclusive Commonwealth where there is opportunity for everyone, and everyone is treated fairly. No longer will LGBTQ Virginians have to fear being fired, evicted, or denied service in public places because of who they are.”

The bill, known as the Virginia Values Act, had passed the state’s legislature in February, but as the Senate and House of Delegates passed the bill with slightly minor differences, these needed to be reconciled before the bill could be signed. It is expected to come into force on 1 July.

Delia Giandeini via Unsplash

Alphonso David, the chair of the Human Rights Campaign, praised the passing of the bill, saying: “When this law goes into effect on July 1, LGBTQ people in Virginia — and people of color, people of faith, immigrants, women and more — are at last protected from discrimination at work and in their communities.

“No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love. Right now, as the country and the world deals with an unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure that leaders are looking out for all of us.

“In this period of uncertainty, it is vital that we are all protected from bias as we earn a living, access housing and healthcare, and seek goods and services.

“We have arrived at this moment today because of years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, and the Virginia voters that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises to their constituents.

“HRC worked to elect pro-equality lawmakers across Virginia in 2019, and we are proud to see that effort culminate with the signing of this vital law. We want to thank all who helped make this day possible.”

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And Vee Lamneck, the executive director of Equality Virginia, said: “Equality Virginia has been working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for years to create a safer and more welcoming commonwealth for LGBTQ people.

“This law will have a transformative and positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ Virginians and bring Virginia into alignment with its voters.”

Earlier this year, Virginia became the first southern state, and twentieth overall, to introduce a ban on gay ‘conversion therapy’. In a statement, Northam said: “Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are.

“This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide. No one should be made to feel they are not okay the way they are.”

Northam added that children should never have to experience ‘conversion therapy’ and that he’s “proud to sign this ban”.

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