Hate and Discrimination are not Virginia Values. Virginia’s Legal Code, Culture and Constitution Must Advance Equality.
In recent years — thanks to advocates who continue pushing for progress — Virginia has seen significant advances in LGBTQ rights, including marriage equality for all our citizens. But there is much more progress left to forge. Too many fundamental protections for Virginians remain dependent on who controls the General Assembly or the governorship, without the certainty of a constitutional guarantee.
Hate and discrimination are not Virginia values. We must repeal laws based in hate and enshrine in our code and constitution laws aimed at ensuring that LGBTQ Virginians can live and work in our Commonwealth with legally-protected dignity and respect.
As governor, I will stand firm against any attempts to overturn progress made toward full equality, whether those emanate from the General Assembly or the White House. I have centered my campaign around ensuring an inclusive Virginia: my tax plan will promote inclusive economic growth, my working families plan will ensure that all citizens of our Commonwealth can earn a fair wage for hard work, and my plan to stand with Virginia’s women pushes for gender equity in all aspects of our economy and community. As a Congressman, I was proud to vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to support major hate crimes prevention legislation, and to support the fight for marriage equality at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, I created progressive interfaith organizations to counter the religious right and their efforts to advance hateful marriage amendments.
Governor McAuliffe’s administration has fought to defend and expand the rights of LGBTQ Virginians, acting to prevent discrimination in state employment practices and in state contracting agreements. My administration will continue those efforts. As governor, I will be ready to veto discriminatory legislation and to use the powers of the office to defend against national and state legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights. I will also:
Push for a RFRA Shield Act Ensuring that No Religious Freedom-Based Law in Our Commonwealth Can be Used as a License to Discriminate
Religious freedom should never be used as a license to discriminate. Gender identity and sexual orientation are still not protected classes under the U.S. or Virginia’s Constitution, leaving the LGBTQ community extremely vulnerable to thinly-veiled prejudice.
As governor, I will push for a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) Shield Act stating that no law in Virginia — based in religious freedom or otherwise — shall be construed to permit discrimination against an individual based on gender identity or sexual orientation. I will also call to amend any provisions of the Virginia Code that potentially discriminate against the LGBTQ community. No business, employer, or landlord in the Commonwealth should be allowed to deny services, jobs, or housing to LGBTQ-identifying individuals or their families.
Amend Virginia’s Hate Crimes Law and Human Rights Act to Include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as Protected Classes
Our Commonwealth’s hate crimes law protects victims of crimes motivated by race, religion, and ethnicity — but not sexual orientation or gender identity. Our Human Rights Act reflects the same gap in protected classes. Violence against the LGBTQ community, and particularly transgender Virginians, is all too frequent — as is discrimination in the workplace and in housing opportunities. All Virginians should feel safe walking in our communities and living with legally-protected dignity and respect.
Our state’s prosecutors need to be able to pursue attackers with additional penalties when their violent crimes are motivated by hate. The Attorney General’s Division of Human Rights should also be empowered to investigate employment and housing discrimination claims lodged by LGBTQ-identifying citizens. I will fight to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classes protected under our state’s hate crime legislation and under the Virginia Human Rights Act, to give prosecutors additional legal weight and deterrent force.
Ensure that LGBTQ Students Are Treated with Dignity and Respect
Our public schools need to be safe havens for all of Virginia’s students, no matter their identity. Virginia’s own Gavin Grimm has shouldered this struggle for too long; our Commonwealth needs to step up to proactively articulate the equal rights of LGBTQ students.
I’ll push for legislation that codifies the rights of transgender students in schools — that explicitly gives transgender students the right to participate in sex-segregated school activities and also use facilities, like locker rooms and bathrooms, that correspond with their gender identity.
We also need to tighten up on our state’s anti-bullying laws, to make sure that school administrators and teachers are fully aware that gender identity-specific bullying, like intentionally calling a student by the wrong pronoun, is unacceptable.
Direct State Funds Toward Centers & Programs that Support LGBTQ Youth and Anti-Homelessness Initiatives
The suicide rate among LGBTQ-identifying youth is four times that of straight youth, and each instance of gender identity or sexual orientation-related violence or harassment increases the likelihood of self-harm by 2.5 times.
Too often, LGBTQ youth are not physically or emotionally safe in their own homes. Any commitment to equality in our state must include funding to provide safe and supportive environments for these vulnerable kids.
Repeal the Ban on Gay Marriage in Virginia’s Constitution
As a result of George W. Bush campaigning for reelection in 2004 on amending the U.S. Constitution to prohibit marriage equality, Virginia passed a constitutional amendment in 2006 to define marriage as only and exclusively between a man and a woman.
In 2015, the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that guaranteed marriage equality nationally, by a 5–4 majority. But until LGBTQ-identifying individuals are assured full and equal rights in every corner of our nation, that decision rests on shaky ground.
The Trump Administration is one Supreme Court vacancy away from tipping the scales of justice against equality. Their first Supreme Court nomination and list of prospective nominees indicate a willingness to expand the conservative bloc pushing us back a generation. We need to eliminate discrimination in our Commonwealth’s constitution and give gay couples the security of knowing that no matter when they choose to marry, their right to participate in that institution is unequivocally protected in Virginia.