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Abstract

After more than 25 years of Republican political control, Virginia passed thirteen pieces of pro-equality legislation in 2020, the most sweeping of which was the Virginia Values Act. That legislation modernized Virginia civil rights law, bringing the state into line with the overwhelming majority of other states in addressing discrimination. In addition to adding nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in existing law - which included housing, public employment, and credit - it created all-new protections from discrimination in employment and places of public accommodation on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran. The legacy of the Virginia Values Act represents tremendous progress for the Commonwealth of Virginia not only on LGBTQ equality, but also in grappling with racism and sexism. It is a manifestation of the transformation of Virginia over time, and it is a reflection of the power of an elected body to make transformative change when the representatives are free to vote in alignment with not only their conscience, but in accord with the will of their constituents. To continue making such progress across the South, it will be imperative that other legislatures undergo similar transformations.

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