Public employment; prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, etc. (SB263)

Introduced By

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) with support from co-patrons Sen. Mark Herring (D-Leesburg), and Sen. Don McEachin (D-Richmond)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Public employment; nondiscrimination.  Prohibits discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation. The bill defines "sexual orientation" as a person's actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression. The bill expressly provides that "sexual orientation" shall not include any person's attraction towards persons with whom sexual conduct would be illegal due to the age of the parties. The bill contains technical amendments. The bill also codifies existing prohibitions against discrimination in public employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran. The bill contains technical amendments. Read the Bill »


01/10/2012: Awaiting a Vote in the General Laws and Technology Committee


01/10/2012Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/12
01/10/2012Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/12 12102454D
01/10/2012Referred to Committee on General Laws and Technology
01/16/2012Impact statement from DPB (SB263)
01/30/2012Passed by for the day in General Laws and Technology (8-Y 7-N) (see vote tally)


Equality Virginia, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

Equality Virginia strongly supports this bill that would, for the first time, codify protections against discrimination for state and local employees, including teachers and college professors.

VACOLAO, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

VACOLAO supports this nondiscrimination legislation that would, for the first time, codify as statewide policy a prohibition against discrimination based on ethnicity and national origin (and other protected categories) in state and local workplaces

Laura Dely writes:

I support this bill, as as a Unitarian Universalist, I am confident that 98% of my 6,000 fellow UUs in this great Commonwealth would agree. We are called every day, every waking moment to recognize and honor the inherent worth and dignity of each person.
Discrimination therefore is an abomination, and this bill would lead us in Virginia from this common prejudice against those who are different from the mainstream.
We are all God's children, and are our brother's keepers too.

Robin Gorsline writes:

People of Faith for Equality in Virginia joins others in strongly supporting this bill which protects public employees from workplace discrimination, for the first time in our history, on the basis of sexual orientation. It also makes sure that other categories, including pregnancy and status as a veteran, are added to existing law.

Roland W writes:

Mothers and Others of Virginia strongly supports this bill that would time, codify protections against discrimination for state and local employees, including teachers and college professors.

els writes:

Virginia's Family Foundation alerted its members and supporters to oppose this bill in this way:

"In last year’s debate over similar legislation no evidence of widespread discrimination was presented. In fact, according to the Washington Post, there are “thousands of homosexuals” working in state government. ... This is a solution in search of a problem.
In addition, SB 263 will open the Commonwealth of Virginia to costly litigation by people who fail to qualify for employment but sue the state based on this proposal.
At last year’s debate on this issue, it was the words of the Equality Virginia lobbyist that revealed the true intent of the legislation. She stated that voting for the bill that would add sexual orientation to the state government hiring policy was a “baby step.”
A baby step toward what? In response, we presented the committee with the argument that passing the legislation is a baby step toward requiring private businesses, and faith-based ministries that receive state funding, to hire homosexuals. This has already happened in other states, including our neighbor Maryland.
Elevating sexual orientation to a protected class, despite the fact that homosexuality is not immutable, would create an entirely new level of protection – protection based on one’s sexual behavior."

So, don't get twisted into the many points of poor reasoning rooted in prejudice in Ms Cobb's arguments for the Family Foundation. This sort of disordered thinking is not debated away.

BUT, please
keep these and other citations, at hand
that show that there IS EVIDENCE OF DISCRIMINATION THAT HARMS sexual and gender minorities in the workplace (both private and public workplaces) - derived from sound scientific methodology, and/or sound legal research.

Evidence of Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation in State and Local Government
By Brad Sears, Christy Mallory
July 2011
"Overall, the study finds that sexual orientation complaint filings are slightly lower, but similar, for employees in the public sector when compared to the private sector. The filing rate for state and local employees is 3 for every 10,000 LGB employees compared to 4 for every 10,000 LGB employees in the private sector. Currently, there are not enough data to do a similar analysis of gender identity discrimination complaints and federal employees are not covered by these state anti-discrimination statutes."

Documented Evidence of Employment Discrimination & Its Effects on LGBT People
By Brad Sears, Christy Mallory
July 2011
Although sexual orientation and gender identity have no relationship to workplace performance, during the past four decades a large body of research using a variety of methodologies has consistently documented high levels of discrimination against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered (LGBT) people at work. Evidence of discrimination has been reviewed and summarized in two recent reports by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law: a 2009 report focused on discrimination in the public sector and a 2007 report focused on employment discrimination in the private sector . This review excerpts key findings from those reports and updates those findings with results from recent studies. In addition, it presents for the first time, data documenting discrimination against LGB employees from the 2008 General Social Survey (GSS), a national probability survey representative of the U.S. population. The GSS data show that over one in four LGBT employees report discriminatory treatment in the workplace in past the five years, and over one-third are not out to anyone at work.
 As recently as 2008, the GSS, a national probability survey representative of the U.S. population, found that of LGB respondents, 27% had experienced at least one form of sexual orientation-based discrimination during the five years prior to the survey. More specifically, 27% had experienced workplace harassment and 7% had lost a job.
 The GSS found that among LGB people who are open about their sexual orientation in the workplace, an even larger proportion, 38%, experienced at least one form of
discrimination during the five years prior to the survey.
 Not surprisingly, more than one-third of LGB respondents to the GSS reported that they were not out to anyone at work, and only 25% were out to all of their co-workers.
 Consistent with the findings from the GSS, several other national probability surveys and
local and national non-probability surveys of LGBT employees and their non-LGBT
coworkers indicate widespread and persistent employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.]

56 Indus. & Lab. Rel. Rev. 449 (2002-2003)
Earnings Effect of Sexual Orientation, The; Black, Dan A.; Maker, Hoda R.; Sanders, Seth G.; Taylor, Lowell J.
This investigation of the effect of sexual orientation on earnings employs General Social Survey data from 1989-96. ... earning are estimated as having been between 14% and 16% lower for gay men than for heterosexual men...

And, add a story about real people that you know who faced discrimination, harassment, and other harm from prejudice in the workplace. And, don't forget that Virginia public employees do not get the same benefits as heterosexual employees: no health or other benefits for partner legally married in another state or country; no long term health benefits for the employee's full set of parents (own parents, partner's parents); etc.

The Commonwealth's discrimination in its own workplace harms collectively many thousands of Virginia residents and taxpayers, of all ages, who are increasingly aware that the Commonwealth privileges heterosexual employees and harms homosexual employees.

Robyn E. Deane writes:

I can't support this bill because it is factually wrong to incorporate Gender Identity as a part of the 'Sexual Orientation' definition:

sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. Replaces sexual preference in most contemporary uses.

The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

sexual orientation,
the clear, persistent desire of a person for affiliation with one sex rather than the other. Also called sexual preference. See also heterosexual, homosexuality.

Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.

Sexual Orientation
A person’s potential for responding with sexual arousal to persons of the opposite sex (i.e., heterosexual orientation), same sex (i.e., homosexual orientation), or both (i.e., bisexual orientation)

Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2011 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.

sexual orientation
A person's potential for responding with sexual arousal to persons of the opposite sex–ie, heterosexual, same sex–ie, homosexual, or both–ie, bisexual

McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems problematic to me to not only use language that isn't entirely correct; but to have to go to the extent of, in so many words, re-defining the term within the legislation so that it can include 'Gender Identity.'

To me, having to spell out what is meant by 'Sexual Orientation' within the legislation just makes it that much harder for any legislator that might otherwise be supportive.

As much as I value to efforts of all believers in LGBT rights and the work that so many have done over such a long period of time, I value more the simple recognition that every citizen of the commonwealth should be able to work to the greatest degree possible limited only by their qualifications or abilities to do a job.

I believe that the shortest route to success would be to leave mention of the existing protected groups alone and add a clause that would exclude from discrimination everyone but those that lack the qualifications or abilities to do a job. By so doing, those that would say there is no need to change the law could more easily embrace that which they already believe and those that believe the law needs to be changed will get the protection they deserve as we all move to reading from the same sheet of music.

Respectfully submitted,

Robyn Deane