Today is a historic day for Virginians as the Commonwealth enacts over one dozen pro-LGBTQ laws, including the landmark Virginia Values Act. Because of this single law, Virginia is now the first and only state in the South to have codified anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.
“After over 30 years of advocacy from Equality Virginia, the passage of so many LGBTQ-friendly bills in a single General Assembly session is truly unprecedented,” said Vee Lamneck, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “This moment didn’t just happen. It took courage, commitment, and resources from thousands of LGBTQ and allied people from every corner of our state for us to get here. While Equality Virginia helped to educate and mobilize Virginians around these issues, this victory belongs to all of us.”
Governor Ralph Northam signed into law sixteen pro-equality bills that address issues pertaining to LGBTQ Virginians, ranging from updating hate crime laws, banning conversion therapy on minors, allowing a third gender marker option on Driver’s Licenses, and removing the ban on same-sex marriages and unions.
Advocates have been advancing the Virginia Values Act for years in the General Assembly.
This law, now in effect, means that LGBTQ people have nondiscrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations, like shops and restaurants.
The enactment of these groundbreaking laws comes on the heels of the recent landmark Supreme Court decision in Bockstock v. Clayton County and at a time where many across Virginia and the nation continue to call for an end to systemic racism.
“The current spotlight on racial justice has reinvigorated the LGBTQ equality movement, here in Virginia, and nationwide,” Lamneck said. “Black LGBTQ people have always experienced higher rates of discrimination than white LGBTQ people, but this is often not talked about. In order for us to experience full LGBTQ equality, we must address these disparities and center racial and gender equity in our work.”
- Advancing historic justice and equity with new laws that give localities authority over Confederate war memorials, remove of discriminatory language from the Acts of Assembly, and establish a commission to study slavery in Virginia and subsequent racial and economic discrimination. New measures also ban discrimination based on hair.
- Enhancing worker protections with measures that increase the minimum wage, ban workplace discrimination, and combat worker misclassification and wage theft.
- Commonsense gun safety laws that reinstate the restriction on handgun purchases to one per month, implement background checks on all firearm sales, require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order.
- Criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana, raising the felony larceny threshold, and permanently ending the practice of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fines.
- Expanding access to the ballot box by allowing early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse, extending in-person polling hours, and making Election Day a state holiday by repealing Lee-Jackson Day.
- Accelerating Virginia’s transition to clean energy with the Virginia Clean Economy Act and measures to advance offshore wind and solar energy sources, establish renewable portfolio standards, and enter the Commonwealth into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
- Restoring reproductive rights by repealing medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare. The Reproductive Health Protection Act repeals Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and 24-hour waiting period prior to abortion, and rolls back politically motivated “TRAP” restrictions on women’s health centers.
For more information about all of the LGBTQ-related bills that passed during the 2020 General Assembly session, visit Equality Virginia’s website: https://www.equalityvirginia.org/news/2020-lgbt-legislative-victories/