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LGBTQ Advocates Lobby Lawmakers To Pass Virginia Values Act

Former Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish at a 2019 press conference
Former Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish (center) at a 2019 press conference on LGBTQ non-discrimination bills. (Craig Carper/VPM)

Members of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Virginia were meeting with legislators in the Capitol Tuesday, trying to put a face to a bill that would offer more protection to their community. 

The Virginia Values Act would provide comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people. It would codify non-discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation, which means any business open to the public would have to serve LGBTQ people. The bill is being sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) and Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria). 

Advocates met with Democratic and Republic lawmakers sitting on the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee, where the bill is expected to get its first hearing. 

Luca Connolly, a transgender woman who works at the Health Brigade free clinic in Richmond, was one of the people meeting with lawmakers Tuesday.

“I think that sitting down and just like I’m a human and we are having a conversation about this thing that is important to me is really valuable, not only in myth-busting but taking away the mysticism.” 

A recent poll commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign found that only 35 percent of likely voters personally knew or worked with a transgender person.

Vee Lamneck, Equality Virginia’s Executive Director, said those statistics are why their style of lobbying is needed.

“We see that there is some confusion about why this legislation is so important,” Lamneck said. “The more that lawmakers can connect to the transgender community, the more they will understand that transgender people live in their districts, they are their constituents, and it is their responsibility to make sure that legislation that protects them is passed.”

Lamneck said the Virginia Values Act would ensure gay and transgender people have the basic protections afforded to other minority groups.

Similar legislation failed in the General Assembly last year despite having a Republican sponsor in the House. Advocates are hoping that, with a new Democratic majority in both houses, the bill will find more support.