The Virginia House of Delegates passed a landmark civil rights bill to make the Office of Civil Rights a permanent part of the Office of Attorney General.
Attorney General Mark Herring created the Office of Civil Rights to expand, enhance, and centralize his ongoing work to secure and expand the civil rights of Virginians, and to protect all Virginians from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, or other protected status.
The designation of the Office of Civil Rights was the culmination of a multiyear plan to expand the authority and resources dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Virginians, and to place the protection of civil rights at the center of the mission of the Office of Attorney General.
“I created the Office of Civil Rights to enhance and centralize our ongoing work to protect, defend, and expand Virginians’ civil rights, and to make sure Virginians know that, as their attorney general, I will always stand up and fight for them if they encounter discrimination,” Herring said. “By making this office a permanent part of the OAG, we are showing Virginians that we have turned the page on a past when attorneys general either ignored, or actually fought against, the civil rights of the people they were supposed to serve. This is a huge step forward for Virginia, and I can’t thank Majority Leader Herring enough for her leadership in sponsoring this bill and leading it to passage.”
HB2147, introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, makes the Office of Civil Rights a permanent feature of the Office of Attorney General. It states that the Office of Civil Rights will exist “to investigate and bring actions to combat discrimination” on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, familial status, marital status, or status as a veteran, and will carry out the Commonwealth’s updated statement of policy on the civil and human rights of all Virginians.
“Virginians should be proud to know that protection and expansion of civil rights will now be a permanent part of the mission of the Office of Attorney General,” Charniele Herring said. “Attorney General Herring’s creation of the Office of Civil Rights showed real vision and a commitment to justice, and with this new law, we are ensuing that commitment will endure. We’ve come a long way from the days when Virginia’s attorney general went all the way to the Supreme Court to keep people like me out of our public schools, or to tell us who we could or couldn’t marry. The Office of Civil Rights will be a powerful, and now, a permanent force for good in our Commonwealth, and I am so proud to have helped make it happen.”
The rollout by AG Herring last month was met with criticism by Norfolk Democratic Del. Jay Jones, who, per a release from his campaign the day Herring announced the creation of the office, first broached the topic in a speech on the House of Delegates floor in 2019.
Story by Chris Graham