Bills focusing on discrimination a hot topic

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The bills highlighted include adding sexual orientation into the list of protections when it comes to discrimination in the workplace and anti-bullying legislation to protect students.

Delegates and equality leaders from across the state stood united today. Starting this week, legislators will begin reviewing a number of bills focusing on discrimination. If passed, one will strengthen anti-bullying policies in schools.

"Children are being bullied based on a perception of their sexual orientation; most children haven't much thought to their sexuality, but other children are using it as a weapon against them," said Del. David Englin (D) Arlington.

The debate over the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy is also being echoed here in Virginia. Delegate Joe Morrissey is proposing a bill that would allow any Virginian to serve in the National Guard regardless of sexual orientation. Former Captain Anthony Woods hopes the general assembly signs off. He was discharged from the military in 2008 for refusing to hide his sexual orientation.

"Someone's sexual orientation doesn't matter; soldiers cared if I was competent, if I cared about them, if I planned well, and was really all about making sure that we accomplished our mission safely," Anthony said.

But not everyone agrees with that notion. Delegate Bob Marshall announced a plan late last year to ban gays and lesbians from serving openly. Marshall says he's concerned serving with homosexuals could be distracting to other soldiers while out the field.

It is important to note that some of these bills have been before the general assembly before, as many as ten times, but the legislators supporting them say they will continue to fight discrimination here in Virginia. Another bill up for debate would give local governments the right to set their own benefits policies, which could allow health insurance coverage for non-married partners.

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