Virginia’s Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on Monday rejected a bill aimed at banning sexual orientation discrimination in state hiring.
The legislation, known as SB 263 and introduced by state Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin, was defeated in an 8-7 party-line vote. The legislation would also have prohibited discrimination based based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran.
A similar measure was passed by the Senate last year when it had a Democratic majority, only to be defeated in the Republican-led House of Delegates. Republicans won effective control of the Senate in the November election.
Ebbin, D-Alexandria, had the support of labor unions, teacher and public-employee associations, and AARP, the over-50 lobby group. The socially conservative Family Foundation and the Virginia Association of Independent Baptists opposed the measure.
Opponents had suggested that the bill was unneeded because, they said, there was no evidence that anti-gay discrimination actually occurs.
This opinion appears to contradict several recorded incidents of discrimination, including the following from the Human Rights Campaign:
Linda, an attorney, relocated to Virginia when her partner accepted a faculty position at a university there. In August 2000, Linda was invited for a second interview at a Virginia law firm. During the interview, Linda was asked why she was moving to Virginia, and she replied that her spouse had taken a position at a local university. The law firm asked Linda to come back for a final interview, which would include a dinner with all the partners and their spouses “to make sure we all got along.” At that point, Linda told one of the partners at the law firm that her spouse was a woman. Soon after, Linda was told that the firm would not hire a lesbian and she should not bother coming to the third interview.
LGBT rights group Equality Virginia, who had strongly advocated for the bill, points out on its campaign page that two separate polls show that Virginians overwhelmingly support LGBT workplace rights, with 87% of Virginians saying that gay and lesbian employees have a right to be protected from workplace discrimination.
In 29 states including Virginia, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, and in 34 states it is legal to fire someone solely for being transgender.
Former Virginia Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine issued executive orders barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, however presiding Governor Bob McDonnell refused to do so when he took up the position.