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House Panels Reject LGBTQ Anti-Discrimination Bills

By Deanna Davison, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Subcommittees in the House of Delegates killed several bills this week that would have expanded protections for LGBTQ Virginians in housing and the workplace.

Two bills had passed the Senate late last month. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, sponsored SB 202, which would have prohibited public employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun, sponsored SB 423, which would have included discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as unlawful housing practices under the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

Both bills were tabled Thursday on 5-2 party-line votes by a subcommittee of the House General Laws Committee.

“It is painfully evident today that Virginia is not for all lovers,” Wexton said afterward. “Simple access to a place to live without discrimination is a basic fundamental right of all people. It is shameful that the House Republicans killed this in subcommittee when it passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

Also on 5-2 votes, the General Laws subcommittee rejected HB 401, introduced by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, and HB 1547, by Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax. Those bills aimed to add the same protections in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Simon, who introduced his legislation for the fourth consecutive session, said the National Association of Realtors amended its code of ethics in January 2014 to guarantee nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That guarantee should be included in Virginia’s Fair Housing Law to protect individuals seeking housing from people who aren’t Realtors, he said.

Bill Janis of the Family Foundation of Virginia, a faith-based nonprofit, said such anti-discrimination bills were unnecessary because of existing regulations.

“The largest employers in the Richmond area, Capital One and Virginia Commonwealth University . . . already have good hiring policies involving these issues,” he said. “They’re already hiring, in large measure, based on the qualifications and merits of the applications of the positions, not based on other criteria.”

Another bill regarding nondiscrimination on the basis of gender identity was killed Tuesday in a House Commerce and Labor subcommittee. HB 1466, sponsored by Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, would have prohibited health insurance providers from denying or limiting coverage to transgender Virginians.

Rodman’s bill was rejected on a 5-3 vote, also along party lines.

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