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Virginia Gay Rights Bill Dies In Committee

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Virginia Gay Rights Bill Dies In Committee

by The Associated Press

February 8, 2006 - 9:00 pm ET

(Richmond, Virginia) Legislation to explicitly prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in state and local government employment practices was rejected by a Senate committee Wednesday.

The General Laws and Technology Committee voted 8-6 to kill the measure, which would have made a nondiscrimination order signed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine a permanent state law. It also would have expanded the policy to include local governments and school boards.

The bill would have barred employment discrimination based on race, gender, color, national origin, marital status, age, disability, pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions, sexual orientation and veteran status.

In December, former Gov. Mark R. Warner amended his nondiscrimination executive order to add "sexual orientation." Kaine kept the language in the order he signed as his first official act after his inauguration Jan. 14.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said her bill "makes equal opportunity a matter of legislative enactment as well as executive action."

Representatives of Virginia government employees and the gay-rights group Equality Virginia urged the committee to approve the bill, saying it had wide support among state workers and the general public.

Jack Knapp of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists said the state should not extend employment protections to gays.

"We feel the activity is against the teaching of word of God, and that settles it for us," Knapp said.

His comments set off a testy exchange with Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, D-Norfolk, who said support for slavery was built in the church.

"I don't think you, Senator Miller, were ever personally a slave," Knapp said.

Victoria Cobb, a lobbyist for the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia, said she feared the legislation was the first step toward requiring private companies to adopt similar nondiscrimination policies.

Sen. William Wampler, R-Bristol, said he had reservations about mandating the policy for local governments.

Lucas said she believed Wampler was sincere, but she questioned the motives behind other votes against the bill.

"I think it's just a bias against homosexuals," she said.

©365Gay.com 2006

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