Senate Republicans vote to kill employment non-discrimination bill

On a 7-7 vote today, the Senate Committee on General Laws voted to kill a bill that would have protected state workers from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran.

state-capitol2SB 248, co-patroned by Senator Donald McEachin (D – Henrico) and Sen. Adam Ebbin (D – Alexandria), garnered the support of all six Democrats and one Republican senator. The measure failed because an outright majority is needed to report bills from committee.

Last year, a similar bill — SB 701 — reported from the same committee on an 8-7 vote. It won bipartisan support in the full Senate, passing 24-16 before failing in the House of Delegates.

Senator McEachin said, “Last year, a very similar bill passed the full Senate with bipartisan support. This year, Republicans wouldn’t even let it out of committee. I am bitterly disappointed to see us regressing. State employees — like all workers — deserve to know that they’re being judged on the merits, and not irrelevant details from their personal lives.”

Senator Ebbin said, “I am pleased that Gov. McAuliffe used his first executive order to ban employment discrimination, but future governors could easily reverse that ruling. Passing this law is the only way we can permanently protect gay and lesbian Virginians from discrimination, and is sad that these Republican senators do not support fairness for all state employees.”

Representatives from many business and advocacy groups appeared to testify in favor of the bill.

A spokesman with the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists was the sole witness to speak against the bill, comparing hardworking gay and lesbian Virginians to — among other groups — pedophiles, polygamists, alcoholics, drug addicts, and those who commit bestiality. He went on to allege that sexual orientation is “a choice,” that lgbt Virginians are “sick,” and that SB 248 “will elevate these protections above religious values and protections.”

In response, Sen. McEachin said, “This testimony was insulting, offensive, and totally inappropriate. It only serves to show why this legislation is so necessary. In a world where some people believe our gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, and family members are sick,’ it’s absolutely imperative that we protect every Virginian from discrimination.”

Reverend Robin Gorsline, president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia (POFEV) and a witness in favor of the bill, added “I can speak for many people of faith when I say that we categorically reject this argument. Gay and lesbian Virginians are not ‘sick,’ and like anyone, they deserve protections. We are all equal in God’s eyes, and we should all be equal before the law.”

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