February 3, 2015 at 1:43 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. Senate approves anti-discrimination bill

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The Virginia Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against local and state government employees. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

RICHMOND, Va. — Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday cast the tie-breaking vote in the Virginia Senate that allowed the passage of a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state and local government employees.

“Employment discrimination in any form is truly unacceptable, and the commonwealth should be held to a high standard in this regard,” said Northam in a statement shortly after the chamber approved Senate Bill 785. “I was proud to cast today’s tie breaking vote to ensure state employees are not treated differently simply due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County), who sponsored SB 785, welcomed the measure’s passage.

“Virginians’ employment should be based on their job performance, not on other irrelevant characteristics,” said the Henrico County Democrat in a statement. “All Virginians deserve equal opportunity, justice and fairness and this bill is an important first step.”

The vote took place on the same day the Senate approved gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s bill — Senate Bill 1211 — that would add gender-neutral references to Virginia’s marriage laws.

The chamber in 2013 approved a measure that would have banned anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee later tabled the proposal.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year issued an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“The majority of Virginians want to see LGBT families and individuals welcomed in Virginia and treated equally under the law, ” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, after the state Senate approved SB 785 and SB 1211. “These bills are about ensuring that Virginia is welcoming to all families and businesses, and if passed will ultimately make the commonwealth a better place for all of us to live, work, and play.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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