December 19, 2019 at 11:45 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. House Democrats make nondiscrimination bill a top 2020 legislative priority
Virginia House Speaker-designate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) speaks at a press conference in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 19, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Cameron McPherson)

Virginia House of Delegates Speaker-designate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) on Thursday said passage of a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill is a top legislative priority in 2020.

“Virginia needs comprehensive protections for our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, friends, co-workers,” said Filler-Corn during a press conference at the Pocahontas State Office Building near the Virginia Capitol in Richmond. “And in 2020 I’m here to tell you we will deliver them.”

State Dels. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) and Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) are among those who stood alongside Filler-Corn at the press conference the Virginia Values Coalition organized. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish, Nationz Foundation founder Zakia McKensey, American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia Executive Director Claire G. Gastañaga, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and Hannah Willard of Freedom for All Americans spoke.

“Today I’m asking lawmakers to make Virginia safe for me,” said McKensey.

Ebbin, who is the only LGBTQ person in the Virginia Senate, added “discrimination is a real and urgent problem.”

Thursday’s press conference took place roughly six weeks after Democrats regained control of the General Assembly.

The bill about which Filler-Corn and others at the press conference spoke would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accomodation. Filler-Corn noted Virginia is one of 30 states “where members of the LGBTQ community are not explicitly protected from discrimination.”

“We’re long overdue in protecting Virginia’s LGBTQ community,” she said. “It is unacceptable to me, to others and clearly the voters that in 2019 a Virginian can be fired or evicted or denied service at a restaurant because of who they are and who they love.”

Outgoing House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and his Republican colleagues earlier this year faced widespread criticism after they blocked bills that would have banned discrimination in housing and public employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Roem after she defeated Republican challenger Kelly McGinn on Election Day told the Washington Blade “its time for us to pass a Virginia version of the Equality Act.”

“Today, we are taking an important step in that new direction,” said David during Thursday’s press conference.

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

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