RICHMOND, Va. - The Office of Civil Rights has been launched in Virginia to help protect residents from discrimination.
The division is the first of its kind in Virginia.
Attorney General Mark Herring said the addition within the Office of the Attorney General aims to expand, enhance, and centralize his ongoing work to protect Virginians from discrimination and to secure and expand the rights of all Virginians.
Herring spoke to News 3 Tuesday about what this means for the Commonwealth and what he hopes to accomplish.
“It will send a strong message to Virginians that their attorney general will be continuing to fight for them. So, whether they have been getting paid less because of their gender, or have been fired because of their sexual orientation, or denied a loan or housing because of race, they know they can call me and we will fight for them,” Herring said.
His office said this is the result of a multi-year plan to expand the authority and resources dedicated to protecting civil rights. Herring aims to place the protection of civil rights at the center of the mission of the Office of Attorney General.
Herring is also supporting legislation to make the Office of Civil Rights a permanent feature of the Office of Attorney General, ensuring that protection of Virginians’ civil rights will always be a priority, his office said.
The newly-constituted Office of Civil Rights will expand and reorganize the existing Division of Human Rights, which was transferred from the executive branch into the OAG in 2012, to include additional authorities and responsibilities that Attorney General Herring has secured from the General Assembly.
Under this new organization, the Office of Civil Rights will grow to a staff of 13, including seven attorneys and six professional staff, including investigators, working to protect Virginians’ civil rights and put a stop to violations.
“During my time as attorney general we have dramatically shifted the role and mission of the office to ensure that the protection and expansion of Virginians’ rights is at the center of all we do,” said Attorney General Herring. “Over the last few years we have added legal authority, resources, and incredible legal talent to our team, which now allows us to formally create the OAG’s first Office of Civil Rights.
The new Office of Civil Rights can be reached by phone at (804) 225-2292, or by email at CivilRights@oag.state.va.us.