In Session

In Session

Rejecting Equality

Should the Commonwealth of Virginia be able to discriminate against gays when hiring employees? Freshman state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) says no, but his colleagues in Republican-led state Senate disagree. This week, Ebbin presented a bill to the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee that would have prohibited discrimination in state hiring on the basis of sexual identity. The measure failed on a 8-to-7 party-line vote.

“I can’t say I’m really all that surprised given the makeup of the committee now that the Republicans are in control,” said Ebbin.

A similar measure was passed by the Democratic-led Senate last year, although it was rejected by the Republican-led House of Delegates. Now, with Republicans in control of both chambers, the effort seems increasingly unlikely to pass. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats have given up on the issue. Del. Ken Plum (D-36) has introduced similar legislation in the House.

“Opponents say this is not a problem and that they want to see some kind of example,” said Ebbin. “My response to that is how would we know if there’s discrimination if there’s currently no prohibition. People would be afraid to speak out.”

Dominion Over Calendars

For those keeping score, mark one for King’s Dominion. That’s the popular and powerful amusement park that holds a strange power over school officials across Virginia. Since the 1980s, school divisions across the commonwealth have been forbidden from beginning classes before Labor Day because of a mandate known as the King’s Dominion Law. Although Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell expressed support for ending the longstanding requirement, Republicans in the state Senate haven’t given up on it yet. Last week, a Senate panel rejected the idea.

But Del. David Englin (D-45) says the fight is not over yet.

“We have another bite at the apple when the House version goes to the Senate,” said Englin. “Not only is it a priority for Alexandria and it’s one of my priorities going in the session, but it also happens to be a priority of the governor.”

The House version of the bill has a huge list of legislators who have signed up to be co-patrons of the bill, indicating widespread and bipartisan support for the measure. Englin said that may mean it will have some momentum if it can get to the other side of the Capitol.

“The folks I talk to in the administration are hopeful that we can get the House version out and over to the Senate,” he said. “And they’re hopeful that when the House version goes over there, we’ll be able to still get it passed.”

Amendment Ridicule

One of the frequent Republican tactics to undermine women’s right to choose is to require that they undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. It’s an evergreen topic in Richmond, and it always sparks some of the hottest moments during the session. During a Senate session this week, state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) added a new wrinkle to the debate, offering an amendment to a Senate bill requiring ultrasounds for abortions. Her amendment would have required a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction.

“I was trying to use ridicule to express my disdain for the bill,” said Howell. “Some people are saying it should go into the amendment hall of fame.”

Although the amendment failed on a 21-to19 vote, the effort gained national attention.

“I’ve gotten hundreds of emails from all over the county,” she said. “I think I’ve hit a chord, and it’s interesting because it’s both men and women who are writing me.”