House Republicans kill pro-LGBT bills in subcommittee

Updated: Feb. 8, 2018 at 6:57 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Advocates have been fighting for years for laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment and housing. On Thursday, they learned they'll have to wait even longer, because Virginia House Republicans stopped several bills from moving forward.

Advocates say they're disappointed, but they will continue to fight.

There was a packed House subcommittee room on Thursday. Many were fighting to keep five pro-LGBT bills alive.

"All of Virginia watching all of you today," said Carol Schall, whose marriage helped pave the way for same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth. "You have the choice to be on the right side of history."

Even Virginia's first openly transgender lawmaker, Delegate Danica Roem, was there to show her support.

The bills are similar, calling for sexual orientation and gender identity to be added as groups that are protected from discrimination in employment and housing.

Two of the bills passed the state Senate with bipartisan support.

"It does not apply to landlords with fewer than three rental units," said state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D- Leesburg) who was a patron of one of SB 423. "It doesn't apply to folks who are renting out rooms, like their basement or dwelling they already occupy."

She said it also did not apply to clergy houses.

Supporters of the bill said not having these protections can deter big companies, like Amazon, from coming to Virginia.

"How will you explain this vote?" said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish to the subcommittee.  "Everyone of you has gay or transgender family members, friends, or constituents that you promised to represent."

Opponents say real estate groups and companies already have clauses that protect LGBT people.

"This isn't really about who gets hired and who gets fired, who gets to buy and who gets to lease a house," said Bill Janis with the Family Foundation of Virginia. "What this is about is who may sue."

Religious groups also spoke out against the bills.

"Our beliefs animate our services," said Jeff Caruo with the Virginia Catholic Conference. "The state's preservation of religious liberty enables us to serve. Please preserve our religious liberty."

In the end, six Republicans were able to kill the bills on a party-line vote. The subcommittee is made up of six Republicans and three Democrats.

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