General Assembly wrap-up

The 2007 GA session marked the first time that positive, pro-active bills outweighed legislative attacks on our community. Interestingly, the defeat of most of the positive legislation reveals the weak, flabby underbelly of the anti-gay lobby, created by their own arrogant overreaching. Most of the positive bills were eliminated, not by recorded vote, but through parliamentary maneuvers designed to prevent any testimony or debate that could reach the ears of constituents.

You can’t really blame the anti-gay shills in the legislature for not wanting a YouTube video of their statements floating around in perpetuity. The arguments they would have to make against simply treating all employees the same, or allowing duly elected local governments to set their own non-discrimination policies, would play about as well as arguments for Massive Resistance. This would not exactly be in the best interests of anyone with aspirations to continue a career in politics. Smart move.

Some of them are smarter than others, of course. One of the decisive victories was the unanimous passage of Delegate Englin’s hospital visitiation bill, which would require hospital visitation policies to have patients choose their own visitors. This would prevent the common situation in which some members of a patient’s family try to bar other members from visitation. Hospitals strongly supported the measure. “This bill actually helps hospitals clarify visitation policy and gets them out of the middle of a very complicated family situation,” Katharine M. Webb, senior vice president of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, told the Washington Post. These family situations may include one in which an elderly widower has a girlfriend his adult children don’t like, or one in which a gay man is barred from visiting his partner by a hostile ex-wife, two of the examples cited by Englin.

Not even Victoria Cobb of the Some Families Foundation was stupid enough to lobby openly against this bill. Even so, one legislator managed to be dumb as a box of hair:

But Del. Thomas D. Gear (R-Hampton) said it gives him “some heartburn” to learn after the fact that the bill might protect gay men and lesbians.

What an ass. The Equality Virginia 2007 General Assembly final update follows. The final status of 2007 legislation tracked by Equality Virginia is recorded here.

Session Winds Down With Limited Debate on GLBT Issues

Today, Saturday, February 24 is the day that the 2007 General Assembly is scheduled to wrap up and adjourn — although most sessions have consistently run over the past several years as officials grapple with challenging issues such as transportation and the budget.

However, the legislation that Equality Virginia tracked during the session have all completed their journeys. Ultimately, the tone this year was one where Delegates and Senators tried to rush and/or avoid debate on many of the measures we were supporting. From denying a fair hearing to non-discrimination legislation sponsored by Delegates Katherine Waddell (I-Richmond, HB 2242) and Ken Plum (D-Reston, HB ), to making a motion to send a common-sense bill (Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple’s health insurance bill, SB 1242) to a subcommittee where Delegates knew it wouldn’t receive proper debate.

Perhaps some elected officials were nervous about voting against these fair measures that would help treat all Virginians equally? Perhaps it was because, once again, we generated close to 100,000 emails to Delegates and Senators over the past six weeks and they feared they might actually pass. Maybe it was the 200 people who attended Lobby Day, or the one million voters who voted for fairness and against the so-called “marriage amendment” last year that was affecting the members.

What is clear is that not only do we need to continue to build our grassroots efficacy as a movement — work that is, indeed, slowly building our political clout, but we also need to start the hard work of re-shaping the legislature. All 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for election this November, and Equality Virginia PAC will be getting involved in several targeted races statewide. You will hear more about these exciting campaigns in the coming weeks and months.

The GLBT community did earn two key victories this session. First, we once again defeated anti-GSA legislation for the third year in a row, and the second is the success of Del. David Englin’s bill (HB 2730) to allow hospital visitation rights. That bill passed unanimously through both houses of the legislature!

Send a Thank You to those Delegates and Senators who voted for fairness and equality on key measures by clicking here.

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