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Virginia senate passes bill to protect state LGBT employees from discrimination

The Virginia Senate [official website] approved legislation [Senate Bill No. 701, text] on Friday that would prohibit the state government from discriminating against its employees based on sexual orientation. The Senate passed the bill 24-16 with four Republicans joining all 20 Democrats in support. Senator Adam Ebbin (D) [official website], an openly gay lawmaker, declared [WP report] that the anti-discrimination bill would help ensure that Virginia's government stays competitive with the private sector to attract the best and brightest employees. The bill will now go to the Virginia House of Delegates, the lower legislative chamber, where Republicans hold a 67-31 super-majority.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation has been a controversial issue worldwide. In July UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] called for an end to sexual orientation discrimination [JURIST report]. In June a group of LGBT plaintiffs filed an appeal [JURIST report] in their suit challenging a Tennessee law that bars local governments from creating anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than those of the state. The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) held a hearing [JURIST report] in June on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), focusing on discrimination faced by LGBT employees across the country. Earlier in June JURIST guest columnist Brynne Madway argued [JURIST op-ed] that the LGBT community must shift some of its focus to promoting anti-discrimination laws, noting that "only 16 states have nondiscrimination laws that include gender identity and sexual orientation." In December 2011 the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released its first ever report [JURIST report] on the global human rights of LGBT people. The report details LGBT people around the world being killed or enduring hate-motivated violence, torture, detention, criminalization and discrimination in jobs, health care and education because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

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