Metro Weekly

Virginia House committee approves LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill with bipartisan support

Three Republicans from rural areas cross party lines to back the Virginia Values Act

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn speaks in favor of the Virginia Values Act – Photo: Equality Virginia

A Virginia House of Delegates committee has approved a version of the Virginia Values Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill, with bipartisan support.

The bill updates the commonwealth’s human rights laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — as well as other characteristics in public employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations. It would also ban discrimination by private employers with six or more employees.

The House General Laws Committee approved the act, sponsored by Mark Sickles (D-Franconia) by a 16-6 vote, with all Democrats and three Republicans representing rural areas — Delegates Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), Will Morefield (R-North Tazewell) and William Wampler III (R-Abingdon) — voting in favor of it.

Notably, Wampler had previously voted against the bill when it passed in a subcommittee by a 5-1 vote.

The committee also approved a similar nondiscrimination bill, sponsored by Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), by an identical vote of 16-6.

That second bill explicitly adds protections for LGBTQ people in public contracting, apprenticeship programs, banking, and insurance, in addition to employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The Virginia Values Act, which has the support of Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax Station) now heads to the Committee on Appropriations.

If it passes there, it will head to the full House for consideration, where it is expected to pass with the support of most Democrats, who hold a 55-45 edge in the lower chamber.

A Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), is scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday.

“We are encouraged by the Virginia Values Act’s progress in the General Assembly,” James Parrish, the director of the Virginia Values Coalition, said in a statement. “These nondiscrimination protections are critical to ensuring that LGBTQ people have the freedom to go about their daily lives with safety, privacy, and dignity.”

“We are witnessing a wave of positive progress as LGBTQ-friendly legislation moves through the General Assembly,” Vee Lamneck, the executive director of Equality Virginia, added. “There is widespread, bipartisan support for the Virginia Values Act. We’re confident lawmakers will quickly pass this legislation to protect LGBTQ Virginians.”

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

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