For the last three years, the Virginia Senate has passed bills to expand protections for LGBT people. The legislation has never made it out of the House of Delegates, but advocates think this year could be different.
On Tuesday, Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, joined LGBT rights group Equality Virginia at a news conference to highlight her bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Virginia’s fair housing law.
Robinson, who could face a tough re-election challenge this fall in her suburban district, called her bill a “common-sense, bipartisan piece of legislation.”
“As a conservative, standing up against discrimination is natural,” Robinson said. “Because we value individual freedom, hard work and opportunity for all.”
Equality Virginia highlighted two polls showing that a majority of Republican voters support anti-discrimination measures. The more recent of the two, a Mason-Dixon poll of 625 registered voters conducted this month found that 53 percent of Republicans support laws to ban anti-LGBT housing discrimination. The poll showed that 63 percent of Republicans support measures to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in public employment.
“Overwhelmingly, Virginians want to see bills passed adding sexual orientation and gender identity to state employment and housing protections,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “The polling that we are releasing today shows that Republican voters are right there with them.”
Democratic-sponsored legislation to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and public employment has already advanced out of a Senate committee with bipartisan support. But the true test could come in the House.
Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, one of three other Republican lawmakers who joined Robinson at the event with Equality Virginia, said he thinks Robinson’s bill can “definitely” pass the House.
“I think there are a lot of open-minded people on this legislation,” Davis said.
The legislation’s passage, Robinson said, would show that Virginia is becoming a more welcoming place.
“It’s been a journey for people to understand that the population has changed and the attitude toward the LGBT community is very different,” Robinson said. “And it’s time to move forward.”