A supermajority of Virginians believe employers should not be able to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation, according to poll data released May 30 by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling (PPP).
According to PPP, 80 percent of Virginians believe employers should not be allowed to discriminate, while 12 percent believe they should have that right, and 8 percent are unsure.
Among Democratic respondents, 94 percent said employers should not be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans respondents split 71-15 against discrimination, with independents split 76-15 against such discrimination. Even 55 percent of respondents who described themselves as ''very conservative'' opposed discrimination based on sexual orientation, versus 28 percent who supported allowing such discrimination.
Women oppose such discrimination more than men, saying by an 82-9 margin that employers should not discriminate based on sexual orientation, compared to a 78-15 margin for men. White voters oppose such discrimination by a 79-12 margin, while African-Americans Virginians oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation by an even greater margin, 92-5. Ratios varied relatively little by age.
The poll bolsters the findings of internal polling done for the commonwealth's major LGBT-rights organization, Equality Virginia, according to James Parrish, the organization's executive director.
Equality Virginia's main initiative for the 2013 legislative session was SB701, a bill that would have prohibited discrimination in public employment. The bill passed the Senate earlier this year by a vote of 24-16, but was killed in committee in the Republican-run House of Delegates before it could receive a vote.
Of Democratic delegates, 29 of 32 signed on as co-patrons of SB701, as did three Republicans: Dels. Tom Rust (R-Fairfax, Loudoun counties), Joseph Yost (R-Radford, Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski counties) and R. Lee Ware (R-Chesterfield, Goochland, Fluvanna and Powhatan counties).
Seven of the remaining 64 Republicans have signed statements saying they specifically oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in their own offices' hiring practices. They are: James Edmunds (R-Campbell, Charlotte, Halifax and Prince Edward counties); Tag Greason (R-Loudoun Co.); Gordon Helsel (R-Hampton, Poquoson, York Co.); Salvatore Iaquinto (R-Virginia Beach); John O'Bannon (R-Henrico Co.); Christopher Peace (R-Hanover, King William, New Kent counties); and Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach).
''We're definitely very pleased to see those numbers,'' James Parrish, the executive director for Equality Virginia, said in an interview with Metro Weekly, noting that a majority of the top 25 employers in the state and of Fortune 500 companies have similar nondiscrimination policies for LGBT people. ''We were able to pass nondiscrimination legislation in the Senate with bipartisan support, but for some reason, the House of Delegates refuses to recognize what the business community support.''
''This poll shows the disparity between where the business community and the majority of people in Virginia are, and where the members of the House of Delegates are,'' Parrish said.