It didn’t take long for things to heat up at the General Assembly. After a slow start last week, already action is being taken on a host of bills in both the House and the Senate. On Monday, the Senate General Laws committee heard debate on two bills that would elevate sexual behavior to a protected class. One, SB 785, would add sexual behavior to the list of protected characteristics in the state’s hiring policy of non-discrimination. Another, SB 917, would add sexual behavior to the list of protected characteristics in housing discrimination laws. (A third bill, SB 1211, which would remove gender specific references from state law was not heard.)
Testimony for each bill was brief, and each failed to report on a tie 7-7 vote. The patron of SB 785, Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Richmond), however, asked that his bill be “passed by” until next week so it can be voted on again. The patron of the housing bill did not ask for that consideration, though the committee could grant a revote at a future meeting.
The votes were tied because state Senator Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas) was not present and did not leave a “proxy” vote. Supporters of the measure are hopeful that they’ll see success at the next meeting because one Republican member of the committee, Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester) joins the minority of Democrats on the committee in support, and Senator Colgan has previously voted in favor of proposals like these.
Last Friday, a bill that would have added sexual orientation/gender identity to the state’s hate crimes law was defeated in the Senate Courts of Justice committee.
These four bills are part of over 20 introduced this session relating to elevating sexual behavior to protected status in our law, repealing marriage definition statutes, and other bills advanced by the state’s most influential homosexual rights organization, Equality Virginia.
Also Monday, the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee heard testimony on two bills, HJ 492 and HJ 493, which would begin the process of repealing Virginia’s marriage amendment. We testified to the committee that such an act was premature in light of the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to hear arguments related to the constitutionality of marriage amendments. We also called attention to the fact that exit polls on election day in November showed that a majority of Virginians still support our marriage amendment. The subcommittee will vote on the bill at a later meeting.
Our TFF advocacy team is already hard at work on your behalf. We’ve taken a position on over 120 bills, in support or opposition. In the coming days, we’ll be asking you to contact your representatives here in Richmond to vote your values. I hope you’ll take the time to participate when we ask. It is essential that our lawmakers hear from you! Click here to keep up with our Action Alerts!