April 11, 2020 at 4:06 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Northam signs nondiscrimination bill into law
decriminalization, gay news, Washington Blade
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Saturday signed a bill that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s nondiscrimination law.

“This legislation sends a strong, clear message — Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” said Northam in a statement. “We are building an inclusive commonwealth where there is opportunity for everyone, and everyone is treated fairly. No longer will LGBTQ Virginians have to fear being fired, evicted, or denied service in public places because of who they are.”

The General Assembly approved the Virginia Values Act earlier this year. Republicans, who lost control of the General Assembly last November, previously blocked efforts to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Virginia.

“With the governor’s signing of the Virginia Values Act, we have made discrimination against our gay, lesbian and transgender friends, family, neighbors and co-workers in employment, housing and public accommodation illegal in the commonwealth of Virginia,” said House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) in the statement Northam’s office issued. “It is now the law of the land that every Virginian can work hard, earn a living wage, and live their lives without fear of discrimination based on who they are or who they love. A tremendous victory.”

Advocacy groups also applauded Northam.

“We’re grateful for the lawmakers, faith leaders, allies, parents, law enforcement officers and people of all political ideologies who worked together to ensure we passed these protections for LGBTQ people in the commonwealth,” said James Parrish, director of the Virginia Values Coalition, a group of LGBTQ advocacy groups that supported the Virginia Values Act.

“No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love,” added Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Right now, as the country and the world deals with an unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever to ensure that leaders are looking out for all of us. In this period of uncertainty, it is vital that we are all protected from bias as we earn a living, access housing and healthcare, and seek goods and services.”

The Virginia Values Act will take effect on July 1.

Virginia will join 20 other states, D.C. and Puerto Rico that explicitly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Virginia is the first Southern state to enact these protections.

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

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