Metro Weekly

Virginia Senate committee approves pro-LGBTQ employment and fair housing bills

Nondiscrimination bills pass easily through committee with bipartisan support

Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg) and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) – Photos: Facebook.

A Virginia Senate committee overwhelmingly approved two bills that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in the commonwealth, setting up a floor vote in the coming days.

The Senate Committee on General Laws & Technology voted 12-3 to send both nondiscrimination measures out of committee and to the floor, where the bill can then be voted upon by the full Senate.

The bills under consideration are are one by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) that would prohibit discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and another by Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg) that would do the same with respect to housing.

On the public employment bill, five Republicans — Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), Glen Sturtevant (R-Midlothian), David Suetterlein (R-Salem), Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Upperville) and Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) — voted with the committee’s 7 Democrats to pass the measure.

The biggest shocker was support from Reeves, who has a history of anti-LGBTQ votes and even campaigned on that record when he narrowly lost the GOP primary for lieutenant governor to Vogel.

Conversely, a surprising “no” vote came from Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), who supported the bill last year.

However, on the fair housing bill, DeSteph and Reeves switched positions, with DeSteph voting to ban discrimination against LGBTQ prospective tenants and Reeves voting to allow it.

Last year, both measures passed the full Senate with the support of six Republicans — including DeSteph — and all 19 Senate Democrats. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who breaks ties in the Senate, is not expected to cast a vote due to overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill, but has said he will vote for it if he is called on to break a tie.

Once the bills pass following their third reading in the Senate, the measures will head to the House of Delegates, which Republicans control by a 51-49 margin.

It is unknown what the fate of both bills may be, as the House General Laws subcommittee that would normally hear the measure has eight members, meaning that five of the members, including two Republicans, must vote to move a bill out of subcommittee to the larger 22-person committee.

Even if the vote splits 4-4 in the House subcommittee, the bill will be considered dead for the rest of the year. 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com