Many U.S. states have limited if no extensive protection laws in place to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination. In a historic moment, the State of Virginia passed extensive legislation known as the Virginia Values Act, making Virginia the first Southern state and the 21st state in the U.S. to protect citizens of the LGBTQ population from discrimination. This bill was codified into state and local law.
On April 11, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law. Senate Bill 868 also known as Virginia Values Act passed both the house and the senate with strong bipartisan support. SB 868 says the prohibited discrimination includes: public accommodations, employment, credit, and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This change in the law means that restaurants can no longer refuse service to individuals, that doctors’ offices are required to see patients, that landlords can’t evict tenants and employers cannot fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The bill was first introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin from Alexandria and Delegate Mark Sickles of Fairfax. Commenting on the political effort to bring this law to pass, 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.”
Virginia Values Act will help anyone who has been discriminated against to pursue legal action as well. The bill states that the individual will need to file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights of the Department of Law, participate in an administrative process, and receive a notice of his or her right to pursue civil action.
Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David shared his enthusiasm over the new law. He said, “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.”
Senator Ebbin highlighted the fact that challenging times such as what the nation is going through right now with COVID-19 can exasperate an already serious problem for vulnerable members of the LGBTQ population and their families.
"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.” The law will go into effect on July 1, 2020. Now, the question is raised: will other Southern states follow suit?