Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Values Act on Saturday, making it the first in the South — and the 21st across the United States — to pass anti-discrimination protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
The measure, which goes into effect July 1, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, specifically when it comes to housing, employment, public places and credit applications.
“This legislation sends a strong, clear message — Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to live, work, visit, and raise a family,” Northam, a Democrat, said in a statement. “We are building an inclusive Commonwealth where there is opportunity for everyone, and everyone is treated fairly. No longer will LGBTQ Virginians have to fear being fired, evicted, or denied service in public places because of who they are.”
Openly gay lawmaker Adam Ebbin, who sponsored the Virginia Values Act in the state Senate, said he was grateful to Northam for signing it into law, especially now amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sadly, during times of crisis like these, discrimination rises, and its effects become more apparent,” Ebbin said in a statement. “When jobs are scarce and housing unaffordable, the reality of who you are must be an additional hurdle to putting food on the table or providing shelter for your family. This law provides important new protections.”
Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization that helped to spearhead the bill, applauded Northam.
The Virginia Values Act is not the first pro-LGBTQ measure Northam has signed into law this year. In late March, he signed a bill requiring the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to offer a nonbinary gender marker for driver’s licenses, and earlier in the month, he signed a bill outlawing conversion therapy for minors, making Virginia the 20th state to do so.