Attorney General Mark Herring has created an Office of Civil Rights within the AG’s office, and is backing legislation to make the office a permanent feature
The legislation has been developed in conjunction with Del. Charniele Herring after previous efforts championed by Del. Alfonso Lopez were blocked in Republican-controlled committees.
“During my time as attorney general we have dramatically shifted the role and mission of the office to ensure that the protection and expansion of Virginians’ rights is at the center of all we do,” said Herring, who is running for a third term in 2021, but is facing a challenge for the Democratic Party nomination from Norfolk State Del. Jay Jones.
The newly-constituted Office of Civil Rights will expand and reorganize the existing Division of Human Rights, which was transferred from the executive branch into the OAG in 2012, to include additional authorities and responsibilities that Attorney General Herring has secured from the General Assembly.
Under this new organization, the Office of Civil Rights will grow to a staff of 13, including seven attorneys and six professional staff, including investigators, working to protect Virginians’ civil rights and put a stop to violations.
When Herring took office, the Division of Human Rights had just one attorney and three additional staff members.
“The Office of Civil Rights will enhance our ability to protect Virginians from discrimination in housing, employment, and public life, as well as allow us to tackle new responsibilities, like ‘pattern and practice’ investigations that can root out and end unconstitutional policing and enforcing protections against discrimination for LGBTQ Virginians,” Herring said. “And the Office of Civil Rights will be a natural home for additional civil rights initiatives we hope to launch in conjunction with the General Assembly, like more robust protection of voting rights, protections for the civil rights of Virginians with disability, and more tools to combat healthcare discrimination and ensure education equity.”
“Attorney General Herring has brought the office and role of attorney general so far in such a short time, and we want to make sure his focus on civil rights and equal opportunity remains central to the Office of Attorney General for generations to come,” Del. Herring said. “This legislation will send a clear signal that the Commonwealth believes in equality for all, and will actively work to protect the rights and dignity of all its people.”
“The creation of the Office of Civil Rights is the culmination of years of hard work and I’m absolutely thrilled to see it come to fruition,” Del. Lopez said. “When we proposed this idea a few years ago, Republicans left it to languish in committee without so much as a vote, but we weren’t deterred. Attorney General Herring kept the idea alive and took the initiative to make it happen on his own, including working with me to create the groundbreaking ‘pattern and practice’ investigative authority that will be housed in the Office of Civil Rights. I look forward to working together again this year to make the Office of Civil Rights a strong, permanent force to protect the rights of Virginians.”