Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Values Act into law, making the Commonwealth the first southern state to pass comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.
The historic victory came after a years-long battle in the Virginia General Assembly to ensure LGBTQ Virginians have the freedom to go about their daily lives without the fear of discrimination. The new law, which makes Virginia the 21st state in the country with full LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, goes into effect July 1.
The Virginia Values Act, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Delegate Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), received bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate. The law provides nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing, access to credit, and public accommodations like restaurants, schools, shops, and doctors’ offices. It sends a clear message that Virginia’s 257,400 LGBTQ adults should have the freedom to go about their daily lives without fear.
The law also creates landmark civil rights legislation that provides comprehensive protections for the first time in private employment and public accommodations for all Virginians on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, marital status, disability, and status as a veteran.
“This legislation sends a strong, clear message—Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” said Governor Northam. “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.”
“With the Governor’s signing of the Virginia Values Act, we have made discrimination against our gay, lesbian and transgender friends, family, neighbors and co-workers in employment, housing and public accommodation illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. “It is now the law of the land that every Virginian can work hard, earn a living wage, and live their lives without fear of discrimination based on who they are or who they love. A tremendous victory.”
“I am grateful to Governor Northam for signing the Virginia Values Act, which represents the years of dedicated work by activists, legislators, and progressive members of our business community to ensure full protection for every Virginian under the law,” said Senator Ebbin. “Sadly, during times of crisis like these, discrimination rises and its effects become more apparent. When jobs are scarce and housing unaffordable, the reality of who you are must not be an additional hurdle to putting food on the table or providing shelter for your family.”
“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,” said Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia, Executive Director. “This law will have a transformative and positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ Virginians and bring Virginia into alignment with its voters.”
“We’re grateful for the lawmakers, faith leaders, allies, parents, law enforcement officers and people of all political ideologies who worked together to ensure we passed these protecitons for LGBTQ people in the Commonwealth,” said James Parrish, director of the Virginia Values Coalition.
“In a time when so many people are facing uncertainty about their livelihoods and futures, Virginia has demonstrated that it values treating all its residents with dignity and respect in all areas of life,” said Kasey Suffredini, CEO and national campaign director of Freedom for All Americans. “This law will send a message that everyone in the Commonwealth deserves fairness and freedom, and will provide much-needed recourse for anyone who faces discrimination. Virginia now joins more than 20 other states and an overwhelming supermajority of Americans calling on Congress to finish the job: America needs the Equality Act now to update our federal law and ensure comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.”
“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,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “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.”
“Today, we see clearly that fighting for what is right matters and that fighting for what is right can make a difference,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature have changed the world for the better. For more than 50,000 transgender Virginians, today’s actions mean that their state sees them for who they are, respects them and recognizes the challenges they face in their daily lives — and wants to take concrete steps to make things better. Political leaders in Virginia have listened to transgender voices, they have heard our stories and today they have done the right thing.”