Equality Virginia and ProgressVA have launched an online campaign designed to increase support for a measure that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.
SupportSB701.org allows Virginians to sign petitions in support of Senate Bill 701 that state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) have co-sponsored. Equality Virginia and ProgressVA will then forward them to their respective legislators in Richmond.
“Employment and advancement should be solely dependent on job performance. No one should be subject to discrimination on the job, including sexual orientation or gender identity. Now is the time to move forward and protect our state workers,” McEachin said in a press release that announced the campaign. “All Virginians deserve equal opportunity, fairness and justice.”
James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday his organization has already begun working to build additional support for the measure among Virginians and local businesses. Eighty percent of the state’s 25 largest private employers have added sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policies, while 60 percent of them also include gender identity and expression.
Eighteen of the 29 Virginia-based companies listed on the 2013 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Index include LGBT-specific protections in their non-discrimination policies.
“One of our priorities is working to create a Virginia that reflects our values, and that includes an open and affirming environment where every Virginian is supported and protected regardless of who they love,” Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, which supports a number of progressive causes, told the Blade. “That’s definitely a priority for us, and this was a great opportunity to partner with Equality Virginia who does fantastic work to help further build our working relationship but also to achieve some really tangible victories for members of our communities.”
The state Senate has passed bills similar to SB 701 twice, but they have stalled in the House of Delegates.
Parrish conceded the measure’s chances of passing in the House of Delegates once the 2013 legislative session begins in January are “very slim.” He said a vote on SB701 will allow Virginians to know where their legislators stand on the issue.
“While we expect it to pass the Senate as it [has twice before,] the House will be challenging,” said Parrish. “It will also give voters a chance going into 2013 to hold delegates mean-spirited accountable who are out of touch with equality.”
Scholl had a similar outlook.
“It can often be difficult to tell what some of the ultra-conservative elements of the GOP are going to do down in Richmond,” she said. “There is wide support for this legislation across the commonwealth and it’s really a common sense bill to create the same protections for state employees that dozens of large employers across the commonwealth offer their own workers. And if we’re serious about making Virginia a place for workers, a place for employers and a job-friendly environment than we do everything we can to make sure that we are a lace that welcomes all potential employees and encourages them to devote their time and energy to make where we live a better place.”
Equality Virginia and ProgressVA unveiled the SupportSB701.org campaign four days before the release of statistics on the Transgender Day of Remembrance that indicate the majority of trans Virginians have suffered discrimination.
Eighty percent of Virginia respondents who took part in the 2011 report on trans-specific discrimination the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released said they experienced harassment or mistreatment in the workplace: 22 percent said they lost their jobs, while 26 percent said their employers denied them a promotion.
Forty-four percent of respondents said prospective employers simply did not hire them.
Equality Virginia, the Coalition for Transgender Rights in Virginia, Richmond Transformers, Black Transmen, Inc., the Gender Expression Movement and Ladies of the Blue Ridge-Transgender Alliance participated in the survey.