Gov. Ralph Northam announced Saturday that he has signed the Virginia Values Act into law, making Virginia the first Southern state to pass sweeping anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ community.
The act, which passed the Democratic-majority General Assembly in February and goes into effect July 1, prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, public spaces and credit applications. The legislation also extends protections to Virginians on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability and status as a veteran.
“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 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.”
“I am grateful to Gov. Northam for signing the Virginia Values Act, which represents years of dedicated work by activists, legislators and progressive members of our business community to ensure full protection for every Virginian under the law,” said one of the act’s patrons, Sen. Adam Ebbin. “Sadly, during times of crisis like these, discrimination rises and its effects become more apparent. 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.”
Other legislation signed into law by Northam on Saturday included legislation granting localities the power to remove, relocate or contextualize Confederate monuments within their communities, as well as legislation that begins the process needed to replace Virginia’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection. Each state contributes two statues to the collection and Virginia is represented by statues of Lee and George Washington.
“These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone,” Northam said. “In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”