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Fairfax school board approves family planning benefits for LGBTQ employees, staff

Superintendent has six months to implement plan

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Karl Frisch (Photo courtesy of Karl Frisch)

The Fairfax County School Board on Tuesday voted in favor of a new proposal that would start the process of achieving family planning benefit parity for LGBTQ employees and staff.

The decision, which board members unanimously approved, mandates Supt. Michelle Reid to develop a legal plan as to how the school system can achieve parity in the realm of family planning benefits for qualified LGBTQ employees.

Family planning coverage — which includes health screenings, infertility and preconception services and methods to both prevent pregnancy and help achieve it — is designed to offset the financial costs for those who are seeking to form their own families.

Co-sponsoring the proposal with fellow board member Megan McLaughlin, Karl Frisch released a statement following the decision. The policy, Frisch said, would help to maintain and grow their workforce and lead the school system toward a more equitable environment for employees.

“To attract and retain a premier workforce, especially in this extremely competitive hiring environment, qualified FCPS employees must have equitable access to the school division’s robust family planning medical benefits,” Frisch said. “Our LGBTQIA+ employees and their families deserve the same respect and support as anyone else. Fairness is fundamental.”

Frisch in his statement also makes note of the broader disparities in family planning benefits when detailing the rationale behind the board’s decision.

“Almost universally, medical insurance providers define family planning benefits that assist with conception in heterosexual terms, leaving qualified LGBTQIA+ employees with limited access to the same benefits enjoyed by their non-LGBTQIA+ colleagues and forcing them to pay for needed treatments out of pocket,” Frisch wrote.

Given the additional services typically required for LGBTQ individuals and couples to become parents, the disproportionate costs are often exacerbated when medical insurance declines to cover such costs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Data collected by Family Equality, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote equality for LGBTQ families and those attempting to start them, suggests that in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment alone —which same-sex couples wishing to have biological connection to their children widely use — can cost anywhere from $13,500 to more than $21,000.

This is on top of data that, as Family Equality notes, suggests LGBTQ households in America make less on average that non-LGBTQ households.

Although Frisch acknowledged that parity is being achieved to a greater extent on local levels and in the private sector, he said the statewide landscape made the school board’s decision necessary.

“Some local governments and corporations have established grant programs to bridge this gap and provide family planning benefit parity for qualified LGBTQIA+ employees,” Frisch wrote. “In addition, a few states now require insurances companies to provide family planning benefit parity for LGBTQIA+ people — Virginia does not.”

Following the approval of the proposal, the board has given Reid six months to create the plan that will “analyze current [Fairfax County Public Schools] family planning benefits” in order to identify appropriate benefits and achieve such parity within the district.

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Virginia

Two lawsuits filed against Va. guidelines for transgender, nonbinary students

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin sought regulations

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(Bigstock photo)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and a private law firm on Thursday filed two lawsuits against the state’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

One of the plaintiffs, a high school student in York County to whom the press release refers as “Jane Doe,” claims “at least one teacher refused to address by her correct first name.” The second plaintiff, “Lily Loe,” a middle school student in Hanover County, “is not allowed to participate in a girls’ sports team.”

“When you look at the ways that VDOE’s (Virginia Department of Education) model policies are hurting transgender and nonbinary students like our clients, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that their authors were purposefully trying to erase gender non-conforming students from the classroom,” said Andrew Ewalt, co-counsel and partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, which has an office in D.C. “That flouts both existing nondiscrimination law and the Virginia law that directed VDOE to develop model policies in the first place.”

The Virginia Department of Education last July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. 

Equality Virginia and other advocacy groups claim the guidelines, among other things, would forcibly out trans and nonbinary students. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

“It was clear since the day that he took office that Gov. Youngkin and his Department of Education would target LGBTQ+ Virginians and single out transgender and nonbinary students for discrimination, and now that some school boards are implementing and enforcing their model policies for public schools, it’s even more clear that the harm is real,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman on Thursday in a statement. 

“We applaud the ACLU of Virginia for taking on these harmful policies and for fighting for the health and well-being of students,” added Rahaman. “We’re proud to work toward those goals, together.” 

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Virginia

Va. Senate committee approves marriage equality affirmation bill

State Del. Rozia Henson introduced House Bill 174

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Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would affirm marriage equality in the state.

State Del. Rozia Henson (D-Prince William County) introduced House Bill 174. The Democratic-controlled Virginia House of Delegates last month approved the measure in a bipartisan vote.

“Virginia is for all lovers — and we’re going to keep it that way,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia in a Valentine’s Day post on its X account.

Voters in 2006 approved an amendment to Virginia’s constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in the state since 2014.

The General Assembly in 2021 approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the marriage amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Democrats last November regained control of the House of Delegates. The party currently holds a 21-19 majority in the Senate.

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee last month delayed consideration of state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution that seeks to repeal the amendment. 

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Va. House of Delegates passes bill to expand bullying definition

Bisexual state Del. Joshua Cole introduced HB 536

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Virginia flag flies over the state Capitol. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia House of Delegates on Friday approved a bill that would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the state’s definition of bullying.

House Bill 536 passed in the Democrat-controlled chamber by a 53-43 vote margin. State Del. Joshua Cole (D-Fredericksburg), who is bisexual, introduced the measure.

“Above all else, our schools must be places where all students can feel safe, supported and free from bullying, and this new, important bill is a step in the right direction toward a more equitable and harassment-free future for all of Virginia’s students,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa Rahaman in a press release.

GLSEN Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers in the same press release cited their organization’s research that “has demonstrated that protecting LGBTQI+ children from violence and discrimination results in improved academic performance, a greater sense of belonging in the community and better mental health outcomes.” 

“We applaud the Virginia House of Delegates for passing legislation that includes LGBTQI+ students in the enumerated protections in school anti-bullying policies, while simultaneously rejecting extreme bills that infringe on the rights of transgender students,” said Willingham-Jaggers. “Thank you to the leaders in Virginia and across the country who are increasingly rejecting the politics of division and instead centering safer schools where children can learn and reach their full potential.”

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