Even as the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting lives around the world, pro-LGBTQ legislation is progressing in legislative chambers across the U.S.
Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Values Act into law on Saturday. The legislation, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the commonwealth’s existing nondiscrimination laws, makes Virginia the first in the South to pass such protections.
The General Assembly approved the bill earlier this year after gaining control of the chamber in November. Although the legislation had passed in the state Senate several times in the past, Republicans had successfully blocked the measure in the Assembly for years.
When Virginia Values Act goes into effect on July 1, Virginia will join 20 other states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in explicitly banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in public employment, housing, and credit.
Today, I signed the Virginia Values Act, making Virginia the first Southern state to enact comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people––and sending a strong, clear message that this is an inclusive Commonwealth where all are welcome.https://t.co/2ppfc627lA
— Governor Ralph Northam (@VAGovernor73) April 11, 2020
— Equality Virginia (@EqualityVA) April 11, 2020
In Florida, the City Commission of Tallahassee unanimously passed an ordinance protecting LGBTQ youth and vulnerable adults from so-called ‘conversion therapy’ this week.
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have banned the practice as well as at least sixty cities and counties in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The Trevor Project’s 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health showed LGBTQ youth who had undergone the harmful practice were twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who had not.
Forty-two percent of LGBTQ young people who had been subjected to the conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the previous 12 months. The reported suicide attempts in the previous year jumped to 57 percent among transgender and non-binary youth forced to undergo ex-gay therapy.
Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, issued a statement applauding the Tallahassee City Commission for taking action to protect young LGBTQs from the harmful pseudo-science.
“This conduct has been discredited by prominent medical associations and proven to be dangerous,” wrote Brinton. “According to The Trevor Project’s 2019 national survey, LGBTQ youth who had undergone conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not. This new ordinance will send a message to the LGBTQ youth of Tallahassee that they should be proud of who they are, and hopefully, it will inspire other localities in Florida to take similar action as well.”
Scott McCoy, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, also cheered the ban, writing:
“We applaud the Tallahassee city commissioners for unanimously enacting an ordinance to ban conversion therapy for minors, but also going even further to ensure the protection of vulnerable adults. This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ+ individuals have a ‘condition’ that needs to be cured by changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Taking a stand against conversion therapy is an extremely important step in the right direction to support the well-being of Tallahassee’s LGBTQ+ residents. But the commission has also sent an important message to LGBTQ+ youth: you are perfect the way you are and do not need to be fixed.
“We urge the rest of Florida to follow the example set by Tallahassee, and pledge to protect our youth from this heinous practice.”