Legislators wore rainbow-colored, heart-shaped stickers Thursday as the House and Senate passed the Virginia Values Act.
LGBTQ advocacy groups and lawmakers held a press conference in anticipation of what they called, “a historic moment after a years-long battle.”
Senate Bill 868, patroned by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-30th, of Alexandria, and House Bill 1663, patroned by Del. Mark Sickles, D-45th, of Fairfax, will amend existing nondiscrimination laws to extend protections to LGBTQ residents in housing, employment and places of public accommodation.
“Today we took another giant step along the path towards a more equal and just Virginia,” Sickles said in a statement.
Speakers at the event included the chief patrons of the bills and chief co-patron Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-33rd, of Fairfax, as well as representatives from LGBTQ organizations such as the Virginia Values Coalition, Equality Virginia, the Human Rights Campaign and theNational Center for Transgender Equalityand Freedom for All Americans.
“Today, history was made in Virginia, and LGBTQ Virginians are one step closer to being protected from discrimination simply because of who they are or whom they love,” said HRC President Alphonso David.
Virginia will be the first Southern state to pass nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ residents, as well as the first state in over a decade to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing laws of nondiscrimination protections, according to a HRC media release.
“This isn’t a theoretical issue, discrimination is happening today,” Ebbin said in a press release. “Until we shine a light on this issue, until we drive it out of our state, Virginians will continue to suffer the psychological, physical and economic vandalism simply because of who they are or who they love.”
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-35th, of Fairfax, House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-41st, of Fairfax, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D) have pledged their support for the legislation.
“We are going to officially end discrimination in the commonwealth of Virginia this year,” Northam said during an Equality Virginia reception Tuesday.