|RICHMOND (February 22, 2021) – A landmark civil rights bill from Attorney General Mark R. Herring and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring to make the Office of Civil Rights a permanent part of the Office of Attorney General is headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law after the Senate passed it with bipartisan support this afternoon. The legislation is a seven day bill, which means that it must be signed by Governor Northam within seven days of him receiving it.
Attorney General Herring created the Office of Civil Rights to expand, enhance, and centralize his ongoing work to secure and expand the civil rights of Virginians, and to protect all Virginians from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender/gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, or other protected status. The designation of the Office of Civil Rights was the culmination of a multiyear plan to expand the authority and resources dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Virginians, and to place the protection of civil rights at the center of the mission of the Office of Attorney General.
“The Senate’s passage of this landmark civil rights legislation is another step in the Commonwealth’s journey towards justice, equality and opportunity for all Virginians. Every single person who calls Virginia home has the right to live here free from the fear of being discriminated against or denied an opportunity because of who they are, what they look like, whom they love, or how they worship,” said Attorney General Herring. “During my time in office I have worked tirelessly to protect, expand and defend Virginian’s civil rights and the creation of the Office of Civil Rights was really a way to enhance and centralize that ongoing work. For too long, my predecessors used the Office of the Attorney General as a way to limit the civil rights of Virginians, but with this legislation this office is now codified in state code and will be a permanent fixture in this Office. I want to thank Majority Leader Charniele Herring for her leadership in sponsoring this historic bill and her dedication to ensuring its passage in both chambers.”
“Virginians should never have to worry about their civil rights not being protected and they should be proud to know that it is now a permanent part of the mission if the Office of the Attorney General,” said Majority Leader Herring. “Virginia has come a long way from a time when the Attorney General fought hard to tell us who we could or could not marry, or to keep people like me out of our public schools. When Attorney General Herring created the Office of Civil Rights, he demonstrated just how committed he was to justice, and with this legislation, that commitment is now a permanent part of the Office of Attorney General.”
HB2147 makes Attorney General Herring’s Office of Civil Rights a permanent feature of the Office of Attorney General. It states that the Office of Civil Rights will exist “to investigate and bring actions to combat discrimination” on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, familial status, marital status, or status as a veteran, and will carry out the Commonwealth’s updated statement of policy on the civil and human rights of all Virginians.
The Commonwealth’s revised policy on civil and human rights states that:
“It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia to provide for equal opportunities throughout the Commonwealth to all its citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, familial status, marital status, or status as a veteran and, to that end, to prohibit discriminatory practices with respect to employment, places of public accommodation, including educational institutions, and real estate transactions by any person or group of persons, including state and local law-enforcement agencies, in order that the peace, health, safety, prosperity, and general welfare of all the inhabitants of the Commonwealth be protected and ensured.”
The Office of Civil Rights works to expand and protect Virginians’ civil rights in many ways, including:
- Conducting Pattern or Practice Investigations to Identify and Eliminate Unconstitutional and Illegal Policing
- Combating LGBTQ and Gender-based Discrimination
- Combating Housing Discrimination
- Combating Employment Discrimination
- Addressing Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation
- Protecting the Rights of Expectant and New Mothers
The Office was created to centralize and enhance the work Attorney General Herring has done to secure, defend, and expand the rights of Virginians, including:
Under Attorney General Herring’s leadership, the Office of Civil Rights has grown to include thirteen staff members, including seven attorneys, after inheriting an office of just four employees, with only one attorney, when he first took office in 2014.