A Virginia Democrat has introduced a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Virginia’s hate crimes law.
State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington County) has introduced Senate Bill 179 in the Virginia Senate. The measure has been referred to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
Attorney General Mark Herring’s office in a press release it issued on Friday said SB 179 is part of a package of bills expected to be introduced in the General Assembly that “will update the commonwealth’s hate crime and domestic terrorism laws, protect Virginians from violence and intimidation by hate groups and white supremacists, and make it harder for hate groups and white supremacists to threaten, intimidate, or hurt Virginians with firearms.” The press release specifically cites statistics from the Virginia State Police that indicate 23 of the 161 hate crimes reported in the state in 2019 were motivated by sexual orientation.
“Every Virginian should feel welcome in our community and deserves to have equal protections under the law,” said Favola in the press release. “We must send the message that violence or harassment based on someone’s gender identification or perceived sexual orientation will not be tolerated in Virginia. This is quite simply a public safety issue — when one of us is not safe, no one is safe.”
Democrats last November regained control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than two decades.
The 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 8. Virginia House of Delegates Speaker-designate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) last month said passage of a comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill is among this year’s top legislative priorities.