Two Steps Back From Banning Discrimination

By Jack Cooper, ProgressVA Intern

This past Monday was a momentous day for the General Assembly. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is one of the biggest lobbying days during session. To top it off, an extremely important piece of legislation was coming to the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee. Senate Bill 248 was up on the agenda that day among various other bills and attracted a lot of attention from various organizations such as Equality Virginia and Virginia Government Employees Association. If enacted, this bill would prohibit discrimination against state employees based on race, religion, sexual orientation etc. and also clearly defines gender identity and sexual orientation within the language.

Since the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support last session, you would think that this bill would stand a good chance at being passed. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Despite the numerous testimonies from supporters from across the state and the strong presentation from both patrons, Senator McEachin and Senator Ebbin, the bill was killed by a 7-7 tie vote. I couldn’t believe it; I thought this bill would surely make it out of committee and help lead Virginia toward equality. How can someone in this day and age not believe that every human being has a right to be happy and be themselves? Some days it feels like with every step we take forward, we take two steps back.