Will Republicans (and Democrats) stand in the way of fairness (HB 2385) again?

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Today is Lobby Day in Richmond for Equality Virginia.

This evening at 5 PM, the House General Laws Committee's sub-committee on Professional/Occupational/Administrative Process, Chaired by John Cosgrove from Chesapeake, will meet. Although it does not appear to be on today's docket, they may possibly discuss Adam Ebbin's bill HB2385 to end discrimination in statewide public employment on the basis of sexual orientation. If not today, it's sure to come up at the next sub-committee meeting.

This sub-committee is comprised of Republicans John Cosgrove, Bill Carrico, Ed Scott, Todd Gilbert, and Jackson Miller. The sub-committee also includes Democrats William Barlow, Jeion Ward, and Al Eisenberg, all co-patrons of the legislation. The trick that may get this legislation out of sub-committee will be convincing Jackson Miller and John Cosgrove to support it. That's not going to be easy. Perhaps an indication of their intent to kill this bill exists in that they didn't take it up while EV's Lobby Day participants were there? Let’s hope not.

Dave Albo, as reported last week, withdrew his support from this legislation as a bi-partisan patron because of the inclusion of protections from discrimination based on gender identity. Misguided as that was, as last week's post discussed, it also hurt this bills chances of passing this year. As of the time of writing this story, Republicans Tom Rust and R. Lee Ware Jr., as well as Independent Watkins Abbitt, Jr. are the only non-Democratic co-patrons. Chief Patron Adam Ebbin and 37 other Democrats make up the vast majority of the measure's co-patrons.

So, besides the seven Democratic members who are not signed up as co-patrons (these should all be floor votes in support of fairness), we must identify persuadable Republican members who should also vote in favor of fairness as 90% of Virginians would. Failure to support this bill on a floor vote for Democratic members should be one possible indicator for progressive Democrats in Virginia on who they should target for primary challenges. It’s no surprise that many of the Democrats who are not co-patrons are from southwestern Virginia.

Dan Bowling, Bud Phillips, Joe Johnson, and Ward Armstrong are all southwestern Democrats who perhaps think their districts don’t merit co-patroning this bill. But when research shows that consistently about 90% of Virginia voters from every region of the state DO support this measure of basic fairness, can’t these delegates from even rural districts be counted on to do the right thing if it reaches the floor, particularly the House Minority Leader? A 90% majority across Virginia will undoubtedly still mean near-supermajorities in favor of this legislation even in those socially conservative districts. After all, even 81% of Republicans statewide support this common sense anti-discrimination legislation. So while it may be understandable that these delegates might not want to be seen as co-patrons of this bill, they should be delegates who will vote to support it on the floor.

Other Democratic members that have not signed on to co-patron this legislation include Charniele Herring, Albert Pollard, and Johnny Joannou. Charniele Herring most likely just hasn’t had the time or opportunity yet. Albert Pollard likely has not co-patroned it for the same reasons as our southwestern Virginia friends—but hopefully can be counted on as a supportive vote on the floor.

Alas, that leaves the GLBT community’s perennial Democratic thorn—who just doesn’t get it—Johnny Joannou of a Portsmouth-based district. Clearly, Delegate Joannou’s largely urban district is quite supportive of fairness, and it also elected Barack Obama with over 61% in 2008. This seat should not hold a delegate who is concerned about how his district would see his support for this issue. So, what’s the problem? Delegate Joannou, by all accounts, likes to be buddy-buddy with the Republican majority, and is simply an old-fashioned curmudgeon on most social issues—he refuses to accommodate common sense and basic fairness. There was a primary challenge to Del. Joannou last cycle, but it was not successful. Perhaps 2009 will be different?

Moving on to the Republicans, Delegate Albo should be supporting this bill and could have served as a persuasive member of the Republican caucus to bring more moderate Republicans along to support the bill. Alas, without that, finding Republican votes will be harder.

On the important sub-committee, the only possible delegates to persuade would be Jackson Miller of Manassas, and John Cosgrove of Chesapeake. Although the part of Chesapeake Cosgrove represents votes fairly strongly Republican, Chesapeake as a whole is quite a socially moderate city. Surely a majority will support this legislation. Also, Jackson Miller in Manassas is clearly in a socially more moderate to liberal district in which even Barack Obama garnered more than 57% of the vote. Although with 90% of Virginia voters being supportive of this legislation and perhaps miracles are possible, it doesn’t seem likely that Gilbert, Scott, or Carrico, all from socially conservative and largely rural Republican districts would ever support this common sense legislation as they could most likely be characterized as “anti-gay” by voting history. But who knows?

Getting this legislation out of the sub-committee in the House would be a first. Last year, a similar bill made it out of sub-committee to a Senate Committee hearing where it failed by only one vote. While we may not see this bill on the House floor this year, it certainly deserves to be there. Virginia voted for change in 2008 because it wants representatives who act on broad-consensus legislation that addresses problems. Certainly, support from 90% of Virginia voters, including 81% of Republicans, constitutes broad support, and anti-GLBT discrimination remains a problem in Virginia workplaces.

Other Republicans in districts that should give them pause to opposing this bill could include delegates like Joe May, Tim Hugo, Bob Marshall (the leading anti-gay delegate left in the House has already drawn up to two challengers this year), Jeff Frederick, and Scott Lingamfelter in Northern Virginia. Additional members in districts that seem fairly moderate for such legislation would include Cole, Orrock, and possibly even Bill Howell around Fredericksburg, as well as Oder, Hamilton, Iaquinto, and Tata in Hampton Roads, and O’Bannon, Loupassi, Nixon, and Massie in suburban Richmond. After all, if Delegate Lee Ware can co-patron this legislation in his district, most of these Republicans should have no problem doing so.

Let’s hope that the Republican members of the General Laws’ sub-committee on Professional/Occupational/Administrative Process hear the call for progress and justice. And who knows, maybe a few of them will surprise us? Yes, I know….wishful thinking.

Until we have a Democratic majority...

....it will be difficult for this bill to receive a fair hearing on the House floor.

Who do people think could be targeted among Republican House members for support?

I forgot to mention Jackson Miller's aide

was fired for being arrested for an anti-gay attack in the District on Election Night. Local news stations even played footage of the attack. But does the fact that Jackson Miller fired this staffer mean that he might be warming to GLBT anti-discrimination legislation?

John Cosgrove? Are you serious?

A couple of years ago Cosgrove introduced a bill that would force any woman who had a miscarriage to report it to the police within 24 hours or face charges. Calling him a Neanderthal on social issues does a disservice to Neanderthals.

Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of....

That there's no chance he will consider it, even if his district would.....I hope we're wrong, but I do doubt it.

Randy, wasn't a similar bill submitted again

this year? It wasn't by Cosgrove as I've looked over his legislation this year. The HB 1878 is certainly Neanderthalish as well, as another blogger pointed out earlier today on this blog.

One more question

Do you think Gilbert, Ed Scott, or Bill Carrico are any more open to something like this?

I was thinking MAYBE Gilbert just because of his younger generation....but I don't know since he represents the Shenandoah Valley and is thought of as pretty much anti-gay....

Thoughts appreciated from those in the know.

Carrico's big moment in the House

was his attempt to gut the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Not much hope there.

Dead on Arrival

No chance of theis getting out of subcommittee or committee.

We know that's likely

But asking the question & raising awareness is key...