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After Court Decision, What’s Next for Gay Rights Issues?

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After the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states last week, impromptu celebrations sprang up across Richmond, including a rollicking gathering at the Byrd Theatre in Carytown.

Now for the bad news.

Virginia is rather skimpy when it comes to other protections for gay rights. It has a policy protecting the rights of homosexuals if they work for state government, as The New York Times reported. But that’s about as far as it goes.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, says she enthusiastically supports the high court’s ruling.

But, she says in a statement, “While lesbian and gay couples across America can now marry the person they love, Virginia law still lacks protections to ensure that LGBT Virginians cannot be fired or denied housing because of who they are.”

She adds that “Virginia law permits genetic counselors and state-funded adoption and foster care agencies to deny services to LGBT Virginians and requires public colleges and universities to recognize and fund student political and religious organizations even if the organizations intentionally discriminate in their membership or leadership in furtherance of their religious or political mission.”

Friday’s Supreme Court decision may not be the last word on gay marriage, says Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall, R-13th District, a hard-line social conservative from Manassas who’s championed many of the anti-gay laws in the state.

He says that since its early days, the Supreme Court has reversed itself “more than 232 times.” If so, he says, the gay marriage decision may not be final.

There are other issues in Virginia, Marshall says. When it comes to renting rooms, he says “The Civil Rights Act,” exempts bed and breakfasts from having to provide equal housing. As for discriminating against gays at restaurants, “how you can you tell someone is gay at a lunch counter?”

Michael K. Kelly, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring, says there are no laws on the books in Virginia “that specifically protect LGBT Virginians from discrimination in employment, housing, or other areas.”

In addition, he says, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has issued an executive order banning such discrimination against state workers and some school boards may have enacted similar rules.

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