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A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Jan. 29 rejected a bill, proposed by Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas Park, Sudley, Bull Run), that would have allowed firms or organizations that contract with the government to discriminate against LGBT people.
The bill, HB1409, would have set forth guidelines that contractors that have contracts of more than $10,000 may not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, or national origin. But the bill would have prohibited the state government, or any extension or branch of government, from requiring that such contractors agree to any additional nondiscrimination provisions, such as those based on age or sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill also contained provisions that provided additional protections for religious or faith-based organizations by preventing government from restricting the organizations’ exercise of religious freedom, whether in speech or action. Government agencies would not be able to restrict the ability of faith-based organizations to contract with the state or various entities, and public bodies would have been forced to prominently display a “nondiscrimination” statement indicating that the body does not discriminate against faith-based organizations. So, for example, the government would not be able to require that social services agencies — like Catholic Charities — involved in the adoption or foster care field agree not to discriminate against LGBT individuals or couples (or other people, based on characteristics such as age, marital status or disability).
Marshall’s bill was heard by Subcommittee #2 of the House Committee on General Laws, which is considered one of the friendlier subcommittees in the lower chamber. Although Republicans enjoy a 5-2 edge on the subcommittee, most of the Republican members are less hostile to LGBT rights than other committees. Del. James LeMunyon (R-Oak Hill, Chantilly, Dulles) and Del. Roxann Robinson (R-Chesterfield, Dale) both voted with Democrats in favor of an amendment to the budget that would have prohibited discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Del. Joseph Yost (R-Blacksburg, Pearisburg, Radford) has previously supported nondiscrimination laws and the repeal of discriminatory provisions relating to same-sex marriage in both the Virginia constitution and statute, stances which earned him the endorsement of LGBT rights organization Equality Virginia during the 2013 elections.
In the end, Marshall’s bill was defeated on a voice vote, so no tally was given, although opposition from Yost, Robinson and LeMunyon, coupled with Democrats Betsy Carr (D-Richmond City, Chesterfield) and Jeion Ward (D-Hampton) would have doomed the measure’s fate. It is still unclear whether the measure had the support of Del. Tag Greason (R-Potomac Falls, Ashburn, Broadlands) or Del. Rich Anderson (R-Woodbridge, Lake Ridge, Nokesville). Greason has occasionally cast favorable votes or issued a statement agreeing not to discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation or gender identity for his office staff, but has a mixed record on LGBT issues overall. Anderson is generally considered by political observers to be outright hostile to LGBT rights in any form. The defeat of HB1409 came just hours after another Marshall bill, HB1414, which would have allowed any individual or business in the commonwealth to refuse service to LGBT individuals or couples based on a “moral objection” to same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or homosexual behaviors, was defeated by a different General Laws subcommittee. LGBT rights advocates across the country had previously warned that Republican-run states around the country had been seeing an increase in bills, like Marshall’s, seeking to restrict the rights of LGBT people or allow discrimination based on moral or religious beliefs in response to recent court rulings upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry.
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