RICHMOND, VA—July 1 will mark the beginning of wider protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians going into effect, thanks to numerous bills introduced by House Democrats.
These new and stronger safeguards for the LGBTQ+ community include outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, banning conversion therapy for minors, allowing Virginians to receive a new birth certificate after gender transition, barring medical insurance companies from denying or terminating coverage to people on the basis of gender identity, mandating the development of model school policies outlining the treatment and protection of transgender students, and removing gender-specific terms related to marriage from the legal code.
“Voters spoke loud and clear when they sent a pro-equality legislature to Richmond to fight for LGBTQ+ Virginians. And we delivered on our promise to build a fairer, more equal Virginia,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn. “From making it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ Virginians in housing, employment, and public accommodation to banning the dangerous practice of conversion therapy to expanding the hate crime statute to further protect LGBTQ+ Virginians, the 2020 session was historic in our achievements for equality. We will continue to fight every day to eliminate all discrimination against our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and neighbors in Virginia.”
“It is heartbreaking that Virginians have faced discrimination, been forced to undergo harmful counseling, or been the victim of a hate crime due to who they love or how they identify themselves,” said House Democratic Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “House Democrats proudly used the majority to help create a more inclusive Commonwealth, making Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
LGBTQ+ rights stagnated in the Commonwealth for years until the voters sent a Democratic Majority to the General Assembly for the first time in more than 20 years. During the historic 2020 legislative session, Democratic majorities in both chambers passed the Virginia Values Act, a long-term goal of advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, as well as the many House bills listed below. House Democrats also led on completing the ratification process for the Equal Rights Amendment, passing comprehensive gun safety reforms, repealing racially discriminatory language from Virginia’s Acts of Assembly which enabled Jim-Crow era segregation, and reducing voter suppression.
“Bigotry and systemic discrimination have no place in the Commonwealth. These stronger protections will help eliminate some of the most cruel injustices for our LGBTQ+ Virginians,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Rip Sullivan, who served as the patron for HB 276 which requires hate crimes committed due to a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity to be reported to the state police. “LGBTQ rights should be firmly rooted in our legal code to make sure our laws leave no Virginian behind.”
Here is the summary of House Democrats’ LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination bills:
- HB 1049 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in numerous areas of Virginia law, including employment, public accommodation, public contracting, apprenticeship programs, housing, banking, and insurance. Delegate Mark Levine served as the patron.
- HB 696 gives localities authority to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, and education on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Delegate Danica Roem filed the bill.
- HB 618 extends hate crime designation to assault, assault and battery, or trespass if the victim was selected on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and empowers a victim of intimidation or harassment, violence, or vandalism motivated by gender, gender identity or sexual orientation to file a civil lawsuit. This bill was introduced by Delegate Kenneth Plum.
- HB 787 adds hate crimes to the list of crimes that a multi-jurisdictional grand jury may investigate, including trespassing, damage to property, or assault where the victim of the crime was selected due to gender identity or sexual orientation. Delegate Lamont Bagby served as the patron.
- HB 276 requires hate crimes committed due to a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity to be reported to the state police. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rip Sullivan introduced the bill.
- HB 386 bars any person licensed by the Department of Health Professions from conducting conversion therapy for minors. The American Psychiatric Association stresses that this practice creates “significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment which have not been scientifically validated.” The Human Rights Campaign also states that children and teenagers are “especially vulnerable” to “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide” as a result of such “therapy.” Delegate Patrick Hope served as the patron for HB 386.
- HB 1041 allows a new birth certificate to be issued showing a change of sex and, with proof of a court-ordered name change, the person’s new name. An applicant must document that they have undergone treatment for gender transition, but applicants are not required to provide evidence of a medical procedure. This bill was patroned by Delegate Marcus Simon.
- HB 1429 prohibits medical insurance companies from denying or terminating coverage to an individual on the basis of gender identity. The bill also protects transgender individuals from being forced to pay higher insurance premiums due to their gender identity, and requires health insurers to determine “medical necessity” of treatments according to nondiscriminatory criteria consistent with current medical standards. HB 1429 was introduced by Del. Roem.
- HB 145 mandates that the Department of Education must develop model policies for school boards regarding the treatment of LBGT students. These policies must cover compliance with nondiscrimination laws, prevention of and response to bullying and harassment, updating student records and identification, upholding student privacy, enforcement of sex-based dress code, and student participation in sex-specific school activities and events (excluding athletics). Del. Simon filed this bill. This law requires the Department of Education to make its model policies available no later than December 31, 2020, and school boards must adopt policies for their schools no later than the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
- HB 623 replaces gender-specific terms with gender-neutral terms throughout the legal code, including laws involving marriage, the rights of married individuals stemming from marriage, and criminal laws and procedures applicable to married couples. This bill was also introduced by Del. Simon.
- HB 1490 repeals the same-sex marriage and civil union ban from the Code of Virginia; the statute was rendered invalid in 2015 by the United States Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Delegate Nancy Guy patroned this legislation.
- HB 581 mandates that Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management develop online training for state employees addressing diversity and cultural competency (including information on gender). The requisite training would be completed by new employees within the first 90 days of employment, while existing employees need to complete the training by April 2021. This piece of legislation was filed by Delegate Elizabeth Guzman.