Since my partner decided to come out as transgender almost two years ago, we’ve had more conversations about how the decision would affect our careers, shared earning potential, and living options than we did about how it would affect our personal and emotional lives.
The Workforce Still Doesn’t Accept LGBTQ+ Individuals
My partner and I are in our late twenties and they are currently in law school. The career advice they are given by the professors makes it clear that the legal profession is still decidedly conservative. As a result, my partner was hesitant to fully transition until after they had graduated and secured a job. They were skeptical about staying in Virginia after graduation because this state offered us no protections in terms of jobs or housing. I remember going door to door in 2019 while canvassing for the General Assembly elections to tell people why winning the election was the difference between my partner and me being able to live in this state or not.
Well, it looks like we’re gonna stay in Virginia! This year the General Assembly passed the Virginia Values Act, outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, access to credit, and public accommodations. Even with the recent pro-LGBTQ+ Supreme Court ruling, this legislation is still incredibly important, not only because it includes more protections, but also because it shows that the Commonwealth is committed to protecting the rights of its LGBTQ+ citizens.
I can’t begin to describe the relief I felt after it had passed both chambers. I could finally feel confident that my state government supported my right to work and live here without fear.
I have two transgender friends in addition to my partner who have decided to move to or stay in Virginia as a result of this law being passed. These individuals are young professionals with masters’ degrees who went to public schools here in Virginia. Before we passed the Virginia Values Act, none of them felt comfortable looking for work in the South, but now, they’ve chosen to make Virginia their home. Instead of bright, young queer people getting their educations at our public schools and then leaving the Commonwealth, more of them will decide to stay here and put their education to work for Virginia. That’s what I call winning!
Pro-LGBTQ+ Laws Are Good for the Economy
But this isn’t just good for workers. Looking at our neighbors, we can see that discrimination and other socially conservative policies hurt states’ economic performance. Georgia and North Carolina, two of our biggest economic competitors in the South, have recently had major issues with industries and businesses over their conservative policies and laws. Georgia’s extremist abortion bill led to the loss of lucrative Hollywood contracts, while North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom policies cost the state over $3.76 billion dollars in business revenue.
Conversely, studies show that progressive policies that ban LGBTQ+ discrimination lead to considerable economic growth. In 2017, Florida conducted a host of studies to predict the economic impact of widespread discrimination bans, similar to the Virginia Values Act. Researchers concluded that nondiscrimination laws could boost Florida’s overall economic output by $5.5 billion and add over 35,000 jobs in the next ten years.
It was also estimated that the policy could add $3.5 billion to the state’s expected GDP growth during that time period, due to how much more competitive Florida’s businesses would be in attracting skilled workers. That’s a lot of money! And now that Virginia has the most extensive LGBTQ+ protections in the South, we are poised to reap similarly impressive economic benefits.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, Virginia will need all the economic advantages it can get, and laws like this one help give us a tangible edge over other Southern states. Progressive laws mean better workers, more opportunity, which will lead to a stronger, faster economic recovery for our entire Commonwealth!
But we’re not done yet! We need and deserve local and federal governments that are just as committed to the rights of all citizens as our state government has proven to be. Pledge to vote this November, to make sure we continue to see the change we need, both here in Virginia and across the nation!
Check out our other bills highlighted in Progress Virginia’s Christmas in July: