As the U.S. Supreme Court hears cases this week to determine if federal law protects LGBT people from employment discrimination, more than 1,000 small businesses throughout Virginia have signed a pledge guaranteeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) customers and employees will not be descriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Equality Virginia’s Equality Means Business Program launched in 2015 as an opportunity for the Commonwealth’s small businesses to highlight how they are welcoming places for LGBT people.
Under current Virginia law and currently with 29 other States in the nation, LGBT people are not explicitly protected from discrimination. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can be fired, evicted or denied service in restaurants or stores based solely on who they are or who they love. Approximately 185,000 LGBT people live in Virginia.
The free Equality Means Business program helps small businesses voice their support for LGBT employees and customers. Participating businesses are featured in an online directory and receive an Equality Means Business sticker to display at their establishment.
To support statewide protections for the LGBT community, Equality Virginia recently announced the formation of the Virginia Values Coalition, a statewide coalition of faith leaders, law enforcement officers, business leaders and citizens. The Coalition will advocate in the next General Assembly for statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces such as stores or restaurants.