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VIRGINIA: House Committee Denies LGBT Employment And Health Benefits Bills

Yesterday a Virginia House subcommittee voted to deny extending employment discrimination protections to LGBT residents of the state. (Such protections are already granted on the basis of religion, gender, race, etc etc.) The same committee then voted against a bill that would have authorized a study on granting health insurance benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees. (Such benefits are already granted to opposite-married state employees.)

When a House panel killed a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in state hiring last month, its chairman said that if it were really a problem people would be lined up out the door of the meeting to testify about it. On Tuesday, such a line extended from the doors of a small conference room for people hoping to testify in favor of a similar proposal that passed out of the Senate last week. It didn’t make a difference.

Current and former state employees told legislators about how they feared being fired if their bosses found out they were gay. Darlene McDaniel said that she was pushed out of her job as a hearing officer for the Virginia Employment Commission after coming out as a lesbian. John Poarch discussed how he spent 25 years working for the state in various jobs, but that he “steadfastly stayed in the closet” for fear of being discriminated against. “I always felt intimidated,” Poarch said. “I felt suppressed.”

Others talked about co-workers and supervisors making homophobic comments or making fun of them for being gay. “What are we supposed to do about people giggling behind your back? What’s the legislature supposed to do?,” Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, asked one man who testified.

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