The Virginia Senate on Friday approved a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.
The 24-16 vote came four days after the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee narrowly approved Senate Bill 701.
“No state employee should ever doubt Virginia’s commitment to equal opportunity employment for all,”gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria,) who co-sponsored SB 701 with Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) said as he spoke in support of the measure on the Senate floor. “This bill assures state employees that they will be judged solely on their merits and that discrimination has no place in Virginia.”
State Sens. Jill Hotzman Vogel (R-Fauquier,) John Watkins (R-Powhatan,) Thomas Norment (R-Williamsburg) and Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) are the four GOP legislators who voted for SB 701. Democratic Sens. Kenneth Alexander, George Barker, R. Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, Barbara Favola, Mark Herring, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, David Marsden, Henry L. Marsh III, John Miller, Ralph Northam, Phillip Puckett, Linda Puller, Richard Saslaw, Charles Colgan, Chap Petersen, and Louise Lucas also backed the measure alongside Ebbin and McEachin.
“In Virginia, LGBT protections will not pass without bi-partisan support,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. “We are pleased that four Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues in passing SB701 to protect LGBT state employees. In the private sector, workplace protections are shown to decrease legal vulnerability while enhancing the employer’s reputation, increasing job satisfaction and boosting employee morale and productivity.”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who in 2005 signed an executive order as governor that banned anti-gay discrimination against state employees, also applauded the state Senate for approving SB 701.
“I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to protect gay workers at state agencies from discrimination in hiring and promotions. I viewed it as a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining top talent across state government,” he said in a statement. “Today, the principals of equal opportunity and fairness represent official policy for virtually every major employer in Virginia and across the country. I am very, very pleased today to see the Virginia Senate approve this commonsense protection for Virginia’s LGBT workers, making equal opportunity for state and local government employees a permanent part of the Code of Virginia so that it does not have to be renewed every four years through an executive order.”
In spite of the Senate’s approval of SB 710, the measure faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.
Parrish told the Blade last year that its chances of passing in the chamber this year remain “very slim.”
“Making sure elected official hear LGBT issues are important to all Virginians is the most important thing any citizen can do to open hearts and minds across the state,” he said in reference to Equality Virginia’s annual Lobby Day that will take place in Richmond on Tuesday. “We’re very fortunate the Senators that voted in support today are listening to their constituents.”