January 22, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-discrimination bill advances in Va. Senate
James Parrish, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

James Parrish (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Monday narrowly approved a bill that would ban discrimination against LGBT employees.

The 8-7 vote in the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee came hours after President Obama specifically mentioned gay men and lesbians and marriage rights for same-sex couples in his second inaugural speech. Senate Bill 701 supporters noted these references in their reaction to the vote.

“Our president spoke eloquently today in his inauguration speech by saying ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,’” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. “This bill is an opportunity for our lawmakers at home to give all LGBT Virginians an opportunity for fairness and job security.”

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria,) who introduced SB 701 alongside Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) also applauded the vote.

“I’m excited that the bill passed committee and we will be working very hard to get it out of the full Senate,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade. “It’s exciting to see the General Laws Committee realize that there is a need for non-discrimination protections in Virginia for our workers.”

The state Senate in 2010 and 2011 passed bills similar to SB 701, but they both stalled in the House of Delegates.

Senator Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier County) was the only Republican on the committee to back the proposal that currently has more than 40 co-sponsors in both legislative chambers. Parrish conceded late last year, however, its chances of passing in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates this year remain “very slim.”

SB 701 supporters remain steadfast.

“With 701, we have an opportunity to ensure that no current or future politician gives prejudiced individuals in state agencies license to discriminate against LGBT individuals, people with disabilities, pregnant women, veterans and others,” Ladelle McWhorter, vice chair of Virginian Organizing, a group that advocates for immigration reform and other issues, said during a Richmond press conference on Jan. 17. “We have an opportunity to create a policy that embraces our differences and reminds all Virginia citizens that we are valued for our perspective, skills and experience and that on one will be automatically dismissed because of those very strengths.”

Delegate Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) referenced the House of Delegates’ 66-28 vote last week that approved gay interim Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship before the committee approved SB 701.

“The nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland as judge shows we understand that workplace discrimination has no place in Virginia,” Krupicka told the Blade. “We have demonstrated that skills, hard work and talent should be all that matter. I hope we can continue that momentum by passing an end to workplace discrimination.”

A vote on SB 701 in the full Senate is expected to take place in the coming days or weeks.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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