NORFOLK, Va. - Lawmakers continue to discuss LGBT bills in the General Assembly with Democratic majorities in place.
On Wednesday, a Senate committee was scheduled to discuss a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification. Previously, the full Senate voted to repeal the state's ban on same-sex marriage, to ban conversion therapy on children and to direct educators to come up with policies for transgender students.
The marriage ban was already invalid because of a Supreme Court ruling. Still, members of the Hampton Roads LGBT community believe the bill sends an important message.
"I think it's symbolic for our community and I think it's one more way that the Commonwealth of Virginia says, 'We support you,'" said Eric Hause, the publisher of OutLife 757 magazine.
Hause has been with his husband for more than 15 years, but at one time didn't think marriage would be possible. "We were going to be together forever anyway," said Hause. "We had already made that commitment to each other. Just being able to codify that and get married made all the difference to us in terms of how we protect each other."
On the conversion therapy ban, some lawmakers questioned if the bill violates free speech. "The government should never be telling an individual what they should say," said Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield). Still, the bill passed.
Dr. Cory Gerwe, the Clinton Director of Mental Health of the Hampton Roads LGBT Life Center, says he's worked with people who have gone through therapy. "It's even more of a challenger to get them to a place of self acceptance and self love."
The bills still have to pass in the House of Delegates, but with Democrats in control they're expected to pass. "Honestly, we've been working on this for a quarter of a century to get LGBT rights in Virginia," said Gerwe. "It's very much needed."