Equity and Equality in Virginia
In recent years— thanks to advocates who continue pushing for progress — Virginia has seen significant advances in protecting rights for all Virginians, including things like marriage equality. But there is much more progress left to forge. Too many fundamental protections for Virginians remain dependent on who controls the General Assembly or the governorship, without the certainty of a constitutional guarantee.
Hate and discrimination are not Virginia values. We must repeal laws based in hate and enshrine in our code and constitution laws aimed at ensuring that LGBTQIA+ Virginians can live and work in our Commonwealth with legally-protected dignity and respect. And we must understand that there is a sincere difference between equality and equity, and that we must strive for Virginia to be a leader in providing both.
Governor Northam, Attorney General Herring, and dedicated legislators in the House and Senate have fought to defend and expand the rights of LGBTQIA+ Virginians, acting to prevent discrimination in state employment practices and in state contracting agreements. But there is still much more that we need to do.
Ensure that LGBTQ Citizens Are Treated with Dignity and Respect
Look, I'm an ER Nurse, and I'm going to tell you right now— if you're going to be concerned about people using bathrooms, it should focus around the embarassingly low percentage of people who wash their hands properly after going to the bathroom. I promise you're in infinitely more danger from getting a norovirus or c. diff infection, both of which are REAL problems, as opposed to the fictional ones posed by transgender Virginians who just have to pee.
Sadly, it seems the "live and let live" mantra isn't good enough for some politicians- which is staggering for a Commonwealth whose seal is literally a partially disrobed, spear-carrying woman stepping on the neck of a tyrant. We can’t claim to be about freedom and killing tyrants if we’re micromanaging the personal lives of Virginians, so we need to step up and ensure our public schools are safe havens for all of Virginia’s students, no matter their identity. Virginia’s own Gavin Grimm has shouldered this struggle for too long, and he’s not alone; our Commonwealth needs to step up to proactively articulate the equal rights of LGBTQ students.
Beyond that, as of right now, the Commonwealth’s hate crimes law protects victims of crimes motivated by race, religion, and ethnicity — but not sexual orientation or gender identity.
Violence against the LGBTQ community, and particularly transgender Virginians, is all too frequent — as is discrimination in the workplace and in housing opportunities. All Virginians should feel safe walking in our communities and living with legally-protected dignity and respect.
Our state’s prosecutors need to be able to pursue attackers with additional penalties when their violent crimes are motivated by hate. The Attorney General’s Division of Human Rights should also be empowered to investigate employment and housing discrimination claims lodged by LGBTQ-identifying citizens. We should also fight to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classes protected under our state’s hate crime legislation and under the Virginia Human Rights Act, to give prosecutors additional legal weight and deterrent force.
Direct State Funds Toward Centers & Programs that Support LGBTQ Youth and Anti-Homelessness Initiatives
The suicide rate among LGBTQ-identifying youth is four times that of straight youth, and each instance of gender identity or sexual orientation-related violence or harassment increases the likelihood of self-harm by 2.5 times. When the cause of suicide is so evident, the solution is clear -- punish people who perpetrate this violence, motivated by a specific kind of hate.
Too often, LGBTQ youth are not physically or emotionally safe in their own homes. Any commitment to equality in our state must include funding to provide safe and supportive environments for these vulnerable kids.
Repeal the Ban on Gay Marriage in Virginia’s Constitution
As a result of George W. Bush campaigning for reelection in 2004 on amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit marriage equality, Virginia passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 to define marriage as only and exclusively between a man and a woman. Our state prides itself on its rich history, home of numerous founding fathers, who were responsible for the flowing, almost lyrical legal language that has defined our country since its birth. And yet, we’ve let the functional equivalent of “NO QUEERS ALLOWED” be added to that august document.
That’s completely unacceptable.
In 2015, the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that guaranteed marriage equality nationally, by a 5–4 majority. But until LGBTQ individuals are assured full and equal rights in every corner of our nation, that decision rests on shaky ground.
We need to eliminate discrimination in our Commonwealth’s constitution and give couples the security of knowing that no matter when they choose to marry, their right to participate in that institution is unequivocally protected in Virginia.