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Virginia Values Act, a bill that establishes gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes under anti-discrimination statutes, has passed through both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly. This means that businesses or individuals can't take into consideration someone's LGBTQ status and deny any service on that basis. In recent years there were attempts to pass similar bills, but after they passed through the Virginia Senate they were blocked by some lawmakers in the House of Delegates. Last year, pro-equality majorities have been elected to both houses of the General Assembly so the ground was prepared for Virginia Values Act to pass.
Even though the bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly it is not law yet. The bill needs to be signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam who already expressed approval: "LGBTQ Virginians should never have to fear being fired or evicted because of who they love. These comprehensive anti-discrimination protections will make our Commonwealth stronger and more inclusive and I’m proud to support them," said Governor Northam, as Patheos reports. Virginia has become the first southern state to pass complex legislation regarding protections for the LGBTQ community and four pro-LGBTQ bills have been passed this January. Besides Virginia Values Act there are also bills that ban conversion therapy, provide legal protections for trans people and repeal old statutes against same-sex marriage.
Naturally, there are opponents who think that religious freedom is at risk because of this bill. For example, Republican David LaRock thinks that the bill will cause the government to be weaponized against people: "As well-intentioned as they may be, it is always policies like this, which add sexual orientation and gender identity to laws and ordinances, that cause the government to be weaponized against people… These are people who are being targeted and punished for their sincere faith as a result of these policies. There are compelling reasons for us not to go forward with this bill. We shouldn’t want anyone to be victimized or mistreated because of who they are, including sincere Christians," said LaRock in an eight-minute-long speech, according to Patheos.
There is nothing wrong or discriminating in this bill and no religious freedom is under attack. It would be impossible to find anything in this bill that is going to victimize or mistreat Christians as LaRock says. On the contrary, Virginia Values Act promotes freedom and equality. Together with sexual orientation and gender identity, the bill provides protections 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.