Metro Weekly

Virginia House committee to consider anti-LGBT bills on Thursday

A General Laws subcommittee will consider several measures involving LGBT rights

Virginia State House – Photo: Farragutful, via Wikimedia.

A Virginia House subcommittee will hear five bills related to LGBT rights on Thursday, including a measure to restrict transgender people’s ability to access restrooms or changing facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The measure — Rep. Bob Marshall’s HB 1612 — is being pushed for by social conservatives, including the Virginia First Foundation.

It mirrors North Carolina’s controversial HB 2 law, except it goes even further, requiring people to use the bathroom of the gender that matches their assigned sex at birth as listed on their “original birth certificate,” even if they have undergone gender confirmation surgery.

Additionally, the bill also requires school administrators to notify parents of transgender or gender-nonconforming students who request special accommodations, potentially outing them if the child has not told their parents or guardians about their gender identity.

A second bill being considered is HB 2011, another Marshall effort that would make it part of Virginia law that denying someone access to facilities in government buildings or schools based on their gender identity would not be considered discrimination. It would prevent transgender people from suing if they were being denied access to sex-segregated facilities based on their biological sex at birth.

A third measure, HB 2025, seeks to allow a “person” (defined broadly to include businesses, organizations or other entities) to refuse to solemnize a marriage, such as one involving a same-sex couple, to which they have a religious objection.

It’s not all terrible news, however. The committee will also consider two bills that would advance LGBT rights: HB 2057, sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church) and HB 2129, sponsored by Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria).

Kory’s bill would prohibit both public and private employers from firing or refusing to hire individuals based on a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Levine’s bill would amend the Virginia Human Rights Act to make permanent protections for LGBT people in public employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Both bills are likely to be tabled, due not only to the 5-2 majority Republicans enjoy on the subcommittee, but the records of those five Republicans, who have not been historically friendly to the LGBT community.

Although Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has threatened to veto any bill restricting LGBT rights, it remains to be seen whether Republicans wish to test the governor and see whether he’ll follow through on his threat.

The seven members of the subcommittee.

The members of the committee are: Delegates Keith Hodges (R-Urbanna), Tommy Wright (R-Victoria), Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), Jay Leftwich (R-Chesapeake), Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond City), and Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg).

The committee is scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon, half-an-hour after the adjournment of that day’s House session, which will begin at noon.

A sixth LGBT-related bill, which would call for the tracking and reporting of anti-LGBT hate crimes to the State Police consistent with the reporting procedures currently used by the FBI, is also scheduled to be heard on Thursday. In past years, the bill has received support from law enforcement officials, but has been tabled at the request of socially conservative groups like the Family Foundation of Virginia. That bill will by heard by Subcommittee #2 of the Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety at 7:30 a.m.

The members of that subcommittee are: Delegates Ben Cline (R-Amherst), James Edmunds (R-South Boston), Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg), Israel O’Quinn (R-Bristol), Chris Head (R-Roanoke), Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke), and Roz Tyler (D-Jarratt).

LGBT activists and those friendly to LGBT rights in Virginia are urged to call and email their representatives and those on the subcommittees to urge them to support the three pro-LGBT measures — and strike down the other three that threaten equality in the state.

For a full directory of Representatives and their contact details, head here.

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