Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a
Democrat, on Saturday signed into law a bill that prohibits
discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,
making Virginia the first Southern state to offer such protections.
Northam, who was expected to sign the
bill, said in a statement that the legislation sends “a strong,
clear message” about equality in Virginia.
“This legislation sends a strong,
clear message – Virginia is a place where all people are welcome to
live, work, visit, and raise a family,” said Northam. “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.”
Northam has signed two additional major
LGBT rights bills this legislative session, including a bill that
non-binary option to driver's licenses and one that prohibits
therapies that attempt to alter the sexual orientation or gender
identity of LGBT youth.
LGBT rights became a priority for
Democrats after they regained control of the General Assembly in
November. Republicans had previously blocked such bills.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, had campaigned heavily in
support of candidates who support LGBT rights.
“No one should be discriminated
against simply because of who they are or whom they love,” said HRC
President Alphonso David. “Right now, as the country and the world
deals with an unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever
to ensure that leaders are looking out for all of us. In this period
of uncertainty, it is vital that we are all protected from bias as we
earn a living, access housing and healthcare, and seek goods and
The legislation, titled the Virginia
Values Act, will take effect on July 1.