Yesterday in Virginia, the House General Laws committee voted against advancing HB 781, a bill that would prevent transgender people from using facilities consistent with their gender identity in public schools and government-owned facilities. The final vote against this bill was 8 yeas and 13 nays, with 7 Republicans joining 8 Democrats voting against the bill.
HB 781 would have, for example, forced transgender women to use the men’s room, putting transgender people at additional risk for harassment, discrimination and violence in Virginia. Also defeated in the same committee with a bipartisan vote was HB 385, a bill that would have prevented local governments and school boards from adopting ordinances or policies protecting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HB 385 failed to to advance with a tie vote of 11-11.
“Today was a victory for fairness and equality when the House decided that putting transgender people at risk for harassment and discrimination was the wrong direction to take Virginia,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Rather than spending the remaining time in the legislative session on bills that put the community at risk for more discrimination, the House should take up the Senate-passed non-discrimination bills so all Virginians can have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families, including LGBT people.”
Tuesday's hearing coincided with Equality Virginia's Day of Action in Richmond with hundreds of supporters of equality filling the halls of the General Assembly. Among those giving testimony in the General Laws committee on behalf of Equality VA was Andrew Wilson, a brave transgender student and soccer player from Appomattox Regional Governor’s school.
“If House bill 781 was implemented, I’d be forced to use the women’s facilities and locker rooms,” he said. “This would impact me if I was at away games if people did not know I was trans.”
In April of 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance informing public schools that Title IX protects students against discrimination based on gender identity.
“Discrimination based on a person’s gender identity, a person’s transgender status, or a person’s nonconformity to sex stereotypes constitutes discrimination based on sex,” the U.S. Department of Justice explained. “As such, prohibiting a student from accessing the restrooms that match his [or her] gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under Title IX.”
On Sunday, The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an op-ed from HRC’s Director of Research and Public Education Jay Brown. Brown, who transitioned more than 10 years ago, grew up in Loudoun County, Virginia, and graduated from James Madison University.
These attacks on fairness and equality in Virginia are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking more than 150 anti-LGBT bills in 31 states, and anti-transgender bills are advancing in South Dakota, Washington and elsewhere.
For more information, visit www.hrc.org/2016legislature.