As North Carolina Doubles Down on Discrimination, Virginia AG Moves Commonwealth Closer to Equality

Ianthe Metzger

In an advisory opinion issued yesterday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring affirmed that the commonwealth’s existing non-discrimination protections on the basis of sex are correctly interpreted to include discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity. Because the Virginia Human Rights Act incorporates non-discrimination protections found in federal law, Herring explained that Virginia courts will likely defer to federal cases for guidance when dealing with anti-discrimination laws, and noted that “the unmistakable trend in federal courts is towards construing anti-discrimination statutes to prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in circumstances.”

The opinion was issued as a result of requests by three state lawmakers seeking clarification on the parameters of sex-based discrimination in the state of Virginia.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Virginia’s neighbor, North Carolina, have just begun a contentious battle over North Carolina’s discriminatory HB 2 law, which, among other shameful provisions, prohibits transgender people from using restrooms that align with their gender identity. Yesterday, DOJ and the state each sued the other and embarked upon a legal battle that could last for years and cost the state of North Carolina billions of dollars. The DOJ’s position that HB 2 violates Title VII and Title IX is consistent with the position various departments of the Obama administration have taken in federal court and in issuing guidance on compliance with these federal laws.

Since taking office in 2013, AG Herring has been a staunch supporter of fairness and equality in his state, and we applaud him for his fair-minded interpretation of the law.

Read the full opinion here.

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