Some of the bills we were advocating for were:
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- Public elementary and secondary school; treatment of transgender students, policies – SB 161 (Boysko) and HB 145 (Simon): Requires the Department of Education to develop and make available to each school board model policies regarding the treatment of transgender students in primary and secondary schools no later than December 31, 2020.
- Health insurance; nondiscrimination, gender identity or transgender status – HB 1429 (Roem): Prohibits a health carrier from denying or limiting coverage or imposing additional cost sharing or other limitations or restrictions on coverage to a transgender individual on the basis that the individual’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity, or gender otherwise recorded is different from the one to which such health services are ordinarily or exclusively available. In addition, prohibits health carries from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or being a transgender individual.
- Sex designation; DMV – SB 246 (Surovell): Requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to offer any applicant the option to mark “X” when identifying the applicant’s sex, except when otherwise required by federal law.
- Certificate of birth; new certificate issued to show change of sex – SB 657 (Boysko) and HB 1041 (Simon): The State Registrar, upon the request of a person in accordance with requirements of the Board of Health, shall issue a new certificate of birth to show a change of sex of a person, as well as a change of name if the person submits a court order that changed their name.
Please note that this information was pulled from Equality Virginia’s General Assembly 2020 webpage after cross-referencing the bills with the notes I took during the event. For more up-to-date information, please visit Equality Virginia’s website!
We were also expressing support for the Virginia Values Act, which would provide legal protections in “public and private employment, credit, housing, and public accommodations for people who might otherwise be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Surprisingly, there are no legal protections for the LGBTQ population at a federal level. While someone cannot be discriminated against by their race, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability (to name a few), it is perfectly legal at a federal level to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In other words: protections for the LGBTQ community are left for the states to decide.
As an interpreter working with marginalized populations, it’s especially frustrating to know that even if a provider discriminates against a patient, there is no legal recourse and the likelihood of the provider being held accountable rests almost entirely upon the facility’s policies. While I have not had to personally witness such a thing, I have had patients report to me past discriminatory behavior from both providers and interpreters alike. The Virginia Values Act would give patients an extra level of protection from such behavior, and increase the level of severity of the offense.
Speaking With Representatives
With this in mind, I was asked to speak with two representatives: Senator Barbara Favola (D) and Delegate Kathleen Murphy (D). Senator Favola represents Virginia’s 31st district, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, and a portion of Loudoun County, whereas Delegate Murphy represents Virginia’s 34th district, located in Fairfax and Loudon County. I was one of the few groups that was comprised of only one person (myself!) so needless to say, it was a new and slightly anxiety-inducing experience for me!
I had an appointment with Senator Favola, and was pleasantly surprised when she enthusiastically expressed support for all of the legislation we supported that she would soon be voting on (HB 145, HB 1429, and HB 1041). Regardless, I briefly gave her a summary of each bill as she followed the legislative handout that EV provided us, just to make sure we were on the same page. Our meeting was brief but overwhelmingly positive. I shared with her that I was a Spanish medical interpreter who often interpreted for LGBTQ youth and their family members, and that these bills would mean a lot to me and my patients. Senator Favola thanked me for my work and assured me that she would support each and every one of the bills we discussed, without hesitation. I thanked Senator Favola in turn. However, in my elated and slightly anxious state, I forgot to ask for a photo!
I did not have an appointment with Delegate Murphy (D), so I waited for quite some time outside of her office as three other scheduled groups came and went. While I did not have the chance to speak with the delegate, her legislative aide, I did get to speak with her legislative aide, Diondra, who took the time to look over the same legislative handout I reviewed and left with Senator Favola. She expressed that she was fairly certain that Delegate Murphy was in favor of all of the bills for which we were seeking support. I asked Diondra if she thought the delegate would need any additional information, but she declined and I made sure she took the legislative handout with her.
All in all, it was a positive experience, highlighting the fact that this year we will likely see a lot of success stories coming out of the general assembly in terms of LGBTQ rights. As of today, the senate version of the Virginia Values Act (SB 868 [Ebbin]) has passed and is on the way to Governor Northam’s desk to sign! The first bill we supported regarding treatment of transgender students is also on its way to the governor. Health insurance nondiscrimination practices based on gender identity or transgender status was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Commerce and Labor and will be heard Monday. The bill for a non-binary option for Virginia driver’s licenses was passed by the House (57-Y 43-N).
This will likely be the last event I participate in at the Virginia General Assembly for this year since there is only another week left in this year’s session. I wasn’t able to do as much as I had originally planned due to illnesses and an unexpectedly busy first two months of the year, but we’ve seen lots of great legislation coming out thanks to the hard work of everyone who showed up and made their voices heard!
Cover image credit: Equality Virginia Facebook page (group photo of participants of Families and LGBTQ Youth lobby day)