Virginia Assembly 2018 Session Begins Today

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Virginia's House of Delegates begins the the 2018 session Jan. 10. (Source: Virginia Assembly Flckr)

At noon today in Richmond, the Virginia General Assembly begins its 2018 session. The GOP has razor thin majorities in the Senate (21-19) and in the House of Delegates (51-49), it remains to be seen how November’s historic election will impact how legislation is written and changed or whether the slim GOP majority will force cooperation across the aisle.

Equality Virginia, a Richmond-based advocacy group, is tracking a series of bills that will be put forth in 2018 that may impact the lives of LGBTQ Virginians. Equality Virginia has separated the bills they are tracking into three categories that include ending discrimination, building safe communities and updating current laws to reflect marriage equality.

END DISCRIMINATION
Public employment; prohibits discrimination on basis of sexual orientation or gender identity – SB 202 (Ebbin): Prohibits discrimination in state and local government public employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Fair Housing Law; unlawful discriminatory housing practices, sexual orientation, etc – SB 423 (Wexton): Adds discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as an unlawful discriminatory housing practice. The bill defines “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

BUILD SAFE COMMUNITIES
Hate crimes; gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; penalty – HB 10 (Kory) SB 112 (Favola): Adds disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense.

Hate crimes; reporting to State Police – HB 32 (Sullivan): Includes within the definition of “hate crime” a criminal act committed against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identification and requires the reporting of the commission of such crime to the State Police.

Hate crimes; gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity; penalty – HB 266 (Plum): Adds gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense. The bill also adds these categories of victims to the categories of hate crimes that are to be reported to the central repository of information regarding hate crimes maintained by the Virginia State Police.

UPDATE VIRGINIA’S LAWS TO REFLECT MARRIAGE EQUALITY
Same-sex marriages; civil unions – HB 75 (Simon), SB 3 (Ebbin): Repeals existing unconstitutional law banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Constitutional amendment (first resolution); marriage – HJ 7 (Kory), SJ 1 (Ebbin): Proposes the repeal of the constitutional amendment dealing with marriage that was approved by referendum at the November 2006 election.

In addition to tracking legislation, Equality Virginia has also asked members of Virginia’s General Assembly to sign a statement assuring that they do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in their legislative office.  Has your representative in Richmond signed the statement?  Click HERE to find out!

If you are interested in speaking to your member of the General Assembly about the aforementioned bills and other issues important to the LGBTQ community, Equality Virginia will be hosting their annual “Day of Action” lobbying day on Monday, February 5.  For more information and to register for this event, visit the EV Day of Action page HERE.