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Improve Hate Crime Reporting
Words by Noura Bayoumi of VCU Capital News Service
RICHMOND – With support from 10 state legislators, Equality Virginia, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians, urged the General Assembly on January 20th to pass laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
At a press conference, James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said many LGBT individuals face hardships.
“LGBT individuals can still be fired from their job – or not hired at all – based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Parrish said. “They can also be discriminated against as they seek a place to live.”
He spoke the day after the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee defeated a proposal (Senate Bill 917) to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s fair housing law and to stop landlords from discriminating against tenants who are LGBT.
Last week, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee defeated SB 799, which would have broadened the definition of “hate crime” to include “a criminal act committed against a person because of sexual orientation or gender identification.”
At the news conference, Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, said the bill would have given law enforcement agencies more data for addressing crimes against LGBT Virginians.
“About 20 percent of hate crimes are perpetuated against those with either gender identification or sexual orientation issues,” said Favola, the chief sponsor of SB 799. “We have to reach a point where every Virginian is protected, every Virginian feels safe and every Virginian has the support of our government.”
Although SB 799 is dead, an identical measure – House Bill 1494 – is pending in the House of Delegates. It is awaiting consideration by the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety.
Del. Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan Jr., D-Arlington, is the chief sponsor of HB 1494. He said he views it as a law enforcement bill – not just an LGBT bill.
Sullivan said he has spoken to FBI Director James Comey about the issue. Comey also agrees on the need for better reporting of hate crimes, Sullivan said.
“When a family is attacked because of the color of their skin, it’s not just the families that feel violated but every resident in that neighborhood,” Sullivan said.
“When a teenager is murdered because he’s gay, the entire community feels a sense of hopelessness and despair. And when innocent people are shot at randomly because of their religious beliefs, real or perceived, our nation is left at a loss.”
#Real #GenderEquality #HumanRights #LGBT #Virginia
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