Virginia Passes Historic LGBTQ Protections

Gov. Ralph Northam has committed to signing the bill into law.

It took more than two decades to get here, but Virginia has finally passed sweeping LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections.

The Virginia Values Act—which extends nondiscrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation—sailed through both the Virginia House and Senate Thursday in back-to-back votes. Its passage into law is nearly assured, as Gov. Ralph Northam has committed to signing the act into law.

LGBTQ advocates capitalized on the first queer-friendly legislature in more than two decades after Democrats won unprecedented gains last November.

The act’s passage came after a deeply moving speech by trans delegate Danica Roem, the first trans state lawmaker in the nation, on the House floor Wednesday, during which she challenged colleagues to consider youth facing discrimination in their schools.

“I was too afraid to tell anyone who I was because that stigma and that fear is so real,” Roem told the room.

“You have no idea what it’s like to be Morgan, or what it’s like to be James,” she said, referencing two transgender youth in the state. “You don’t know until you have lived it, until you have cried yourself to sleep over it.”

HRC president Alphonso David said the moment is historic for Virginia, which up until recently was among the 30 states in America without LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections on the books. Virginia would be the first southern state to pass such protections.

“No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love,” David said in a statement. “This day would not have been possible without the years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, or the voters in Virginia that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises.”

The bill still faces a series of procedural votes before hitting Northam’s desk.

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, nondiscrimination protections could secure equal treatment for 307,000 queer Virginians.

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Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.