June 30, 2021 – Herring Celebrates Bill Making Veterans and Active Servicemembers a Protected Class Being Signed into Law
|Mark Herring Attorney General||202 North Ninth Street Richmond, Virginia 23219|
~ Herring’s Office of Civil Rights will now be able to enforce anti-discrimination protections for veterans, active duty servicemembers, and the dependents of both groups; Herring joined the Governor and patrons this morning for the bill signing ~
RICHMOND – A bill that adds “military status” to the list of protected classes and amends several of Virginia’s anti-discrimination statutes has been signed into law, and Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s Office of Civil Rights will now be able to enforce these anti-discrimination protections. “Military status” covers active duty servicemembers, veterans, and the dependents of both. Attorney General Herring’s team worked with Delegate Kathy Tran (HB2161) and Senator John Bell (SB 1410) to help get this legislation passed during the most recent legislative session. Attorney General Herring joined Governor Northam and the patrons of the bill this morning in Richmond for the bill signing.
“Virginia veterans and servicemembers have dedicated their lives to keeping their country safe and the last thing they should ever have to worry about is being discriminated against because of their sacrifice,” said Attorney General Herring. “The Commonwealth is home to one of the largest military and veteran populations in the country and must do all we can to support them, including protecting them from discrimination. I am incredibly proud of the work my team and I have done to protect Virginians’ rights, and, with these new tools, we now have the ability to hold those who discriminate against veterans and servicemembers accountable. I want to thank both Delegate Tran and Senator Bell for their partnership in helping to get these important anti-discrimination protections passed.”
This legislation adds “military status” to the list of protected classes in Virginia Code and amends several anti-discrimination statutes including the Virginia Human Rights Act, the Virginia Fair Housing Law, Virginia Personnel Act, local human rights commissions, Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act, and the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act.
“Today, we are taking important steps to ensure veterans, service members, military spouses, and their dependents are protected from discrimination when looking for employment, housing, or in public accommodations,” said Delegate Kathy Tran. “I’m proud to have worked with Attorney General Herring and his team, Senator Bell, and many supporters to fight the injustice of discrimination against those who have sacrificed so much for our country. This is an historic progress in our work to make the 42nd District and Virginia the most welcoming state for military families.”
“It’s was concerning and disheartening to hear stories of discrimination from veterans, active duty servicemembers, and their families, especially because they have dedicated their lives to protecting this country,” said Senator John Bell. “Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in Virginia and I’m proud to have worked alongside both Attorney General Herring and Delegate Tran to enact these anti-discrimination protections and include ‘military status’ as a protected class in the Commonwealth.”
Attorney General Herring’s Office of Civil Rights will now play a larger role in protecting Virginia’s servicemembers, veterans, and their dependents from discrimination in areas like housing and employment. The Office of Civil Rights was created to expand, enhance, and centralize his ongoing work to protect Virginians from discrimination and secure and expand the rights of all Virginians.
Some examples of military discrimination are:
- Charging servicemembers a higher security deposit
- Requiring service members to waive federal housing protections covered by Servicemember Civil Relief Act as a condition of getting a lease
- Denying a job applicant employment because they are military spouse
- Not allowing servicemembers to have certain military-related equipment at their residence
- Refusing to rent to someone in the reserves because the landlord is worried the tenant will be deployed
- Refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for veterans with PTSD
- Steering a “military wife” to a certain part of town where other military families live
During the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly passed the Virginia Values Act, historic legislation that enacted comprehensive anti-discrimination protections in the Commonwealth. In March of this year, Attorney General Herring successfully defeated a challenge to the Virginia Values Act against an attack that sought to block the legislation.
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