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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 15, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 03
Virginia: latest battleground for LGBT rights
Section One
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Virginia: latest battleground for LGBT rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Virginia will not only be an important swing state in the 2016 presidential election. It is also shaping up to be a key battleground for LGBT rights.

Four Republican state legislators have introduced bills that would sharply limit LGBT rights, especially the rights of Transgender Virginians.

Republican Delegate Mark Cole submitted a bill defining gender as 'anatomical sex, mean[ing] the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person's anatomy.'

If Transgender students were to use a restroom appropriate to their gender identity rather than their 'anatomical sex,' they could be fined $50 per infraction. Cole did not specify how school officials are supposed to determine a student's 'anatomical sex.'

Delegate James LaRock introduced a measure that would make it almost impossible for Trans Virginians to change gender markers on their legal documents.

'[T]he designation of sex on a certificate of birth shall only be changed pursuant to an order of a court of competent jurisdiction indicating that the initial designation of sex was incorrect due to a typographical error,' the bill reads.

LaRock's bill may be a response to efforts by Equality Virginia to pass an amendment to state law allowing changes in gender markers without surgery.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, told The Washington Blade earlier this week that his organization is working on amending the state code to allow Virginians to change the gender on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery. He said on Saturday that these changes would mirror those that have been implemented for passports and Social Security cards.

'[LaRock's] bill is yet another attack on Virginia's transgender community this General Assembly session,' Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. 'It is important for transgender people to have consistency across their legal documents and for those documents to accurately reflect their sex and gender.'

Yet another Republican delegate, Bob Marshall, introduced a bill that would prohibit 'any political subdivision of the commonwealth, including a locality or school board, from enacting an ordinance or adopting a regulation prohibiting discrimination on any basis other than race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, national origin, age, marital status or disability.'

Currently, Virginia's statewide anti-discrimination law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity, and LGBT Virginians are protected only by the local ordinances Marshall wants to outlaw.

Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring ruled last March that local school boards may include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-discrimination policies. Herring's ruling reversed a decision by a previous Republican Attorney General that only the state legislature may add protected classes under the law.

Finally, Republican state Sen. Charles 'Bill' Carrico introduced a bill that would allow Virginia county clerks to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples if the clerks have religious or moral objections. Carrico claims constituents were concerned about what happened to Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

'I'm just trying to clarify what the options are if they have a right-of-conscience issue,' said Carrico, who also introduced a broader 'religious freedom' bill.

Any anti-LGBT bill that passes the Republican-controlled Assembly would almost certainly be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, so none of the Republican-sponsored bills are likely to become law.

Meanwhile, Democratic state lawmakers will be pushing pro-LGBT bills, but they are also unlikely to become law.

Out Gay Delegate Mark Levine plans a sweeping LGBT civil rights bill, while Delegate Patrick Hope wants to ban so-called 'ex-gay' therapy for minors.

'As hearts and minds on the issue continue to evolve, we gain more and more of an understanding,' Hope told The Washington Blade on Monday. 'With that comes acceptance that being homosexual is not a mental illness or a sin. There's no on or off switch, and I believe we are getting closer and closer to recognizing that conversion therapy is nothing more than a hoax on the consumer. One day we'll look back on this the same way we view lobotomies or sterilizations.'

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: A judge in Alabama is still fighting marriage equality.
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