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LGBTQ bills shows old and new attitudes at Virginia capitol

Visitors mill around the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 8, 2020.
Steve Helber
Visitors mill around the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Jan. 8, 2020.

Bills that would impact the LGBTQ community in Virginia are moving their way through the state’s legislature. While a democratic majority is blocking bills that would reduce rights, some bipartisan votes highlight a possibly changing Commonwealth.

Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage may stay on the books until at least 2026, but a bill that would make it illegal for court employees to deny marriage licenses based on sex, race or gender passed the House with bipartisan support. It got 5 Republican votes, a surprise to the bill’s patron Delegate Rozia Henson.

“It shows we’re at least moving the Commonwealth in the right direction,” the Woodbridge-area freshman Delegate said.

On the other side of the LGBTQ rights coin is a handful of bills that went before a Senate Education subcommittee Thursday: a ban on transgender women competing in high school sports, and a requirement for school officials to out students were both killed by Democrats.

Here’s Lynchburg-area Senator Mark Peake defending his trans sports ban ahead of the hearing.

“I understand the controversy, I’m not doing it to be mean," he told Radio IQ. "I’m doing it to protect women in sports.”

Senator Danica Roem, the first transgender state elected official in the Commonwealth, said she’s glad to see such efforts find their end in a legislative graveyard.

“The last thing anyone needs is to single out and stigmatize the very people they're elected to serve. That’s what these bills do," Roem said. "And they belong in Senator [Louise Lucas's] trashcan."

Another bill that blocks the state from assisting in investigations into gender affirming care from across state lines, like what’s happened in Texas as that state seeks to limit access to transgender healthcare, also got bipartisan support and is currently awaiting a vote in a Senate committee.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.