January 21, 2020 at 10:31 pm EST | by Philip Van Slooten
Va. Senate passes four LGBTQ rights bills
Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
The Virginia State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate on Tuesday approved four LGBTQ rights bills.

Senate Bill 245, which state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced, would prohibit any health care provider or counselor in Virginia from practicing so-called conversion therapy. The measure passed by a 20-18 vote margin.

“We’re thrilled to see the Virginia Senate pass this bill protecting LGBTQ youth from this harmful practice,” Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck told the Washington Blade during a telephone call.

Previous versions of the bill have been introduced since 2016, but consistently failed to pass the Senate.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 161, a measure sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax County) that would require school boards to adopt policies to ensure transgender students have equal access to school facilities and appropriate ID cards. SB 161 would also address harassment.

The measure passed by a 24-15 vote margin.

“Today, the Virginia Senate clearly demonstrated their commitment to ensuring that Virginia’s public schools are equipped to support all students with an equal education, including transgender students,” said Lamneck.

The Senate on Tuesday approved Senate Bill 657, a bill introduced by Boysko that would allow trans Virginias to update their name and sex on their birth certificate, by a 24-15 vote margin. Senate Bill 17, a measure introduced by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) that would repeal Virginia’s statutory same-sex marriage ban, passed by a 25-13 vote margin.

Equality Virginia: Majority of Virginians support nondiscrimination bill

The Senate General Laws Committee on Wednesday will hear testimony on Senate Bill 868, a bill known as the Virginia Values Act that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination laws.

Ebbin and state Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County), who are both openly gay, introduced versions of the Virginia Values Act in the Senate and the Virginia House of Delegates.

“It’s extremely troubling that Virginians are fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and turned away from places like restaurants, shops and even doctor’s offices because they’re LGBTQ,” said Lamneck. “The Virginia Values Act modernizes existing Virginia law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in their daily lives.”

Twenty-five states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 21 states prohibit it based on gender identity.

“This legislation creates a critical update to Virginia law and sends a clear message that the commonwealth is a safe and welcoming place for all people,” said James Parrish, director of the Virginia Values Coalition, a group of local and national LGBTQ organizations that support the Virginia Values Act.

Governor Ralph Northam, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax County) all support the bill. Democrats have made it a top priority for the 2020 legislative session.

“Passing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Virginians has overwhelming support among voters,” Lamneck said, noting 78 percent of Virginians support these protections in the workplace as well.

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