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Gender To Be Added to Identities Protected from Discrimination Under County Code

A new change to the County Code under review at the upcoming County Board meeting on Saturday (Jul. 18) would add gender identity to the list of identities protected from discrimination.

The move follows the approval of a similar state-level change that prohibited discrimination in public employment, housing and credit to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The classifications fall under the county’s human rights ordinance, which authorizes the Human Rights Commission to investigate and resolve complaints of ordinance violations through the Arlington County Office of Human Rights.

The change was advocated for by the Human Rights Commission at its July 7 meeting.

Sexual orientation was added to the county’s human rights ordinance in 2019 and the proposed change in Arlington would also update the County’s definition of sexual orientation to match the state’s.

According to the ordinance, gender identity is defined as:

The gender-related identity, appearance, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual (including but not limited to transgender status, gender fluidity and gender expression), without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth or as further defined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States.

The amended sexual orientation clause now defines it as:

A person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality or as defined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States.

The proposed changes to County Code were made possible by the recent state legislation; Virginia is a Dillon Rule state in which localities cannot make laws not specifically delegated by the Commonwealth.

“The Virginia General Assembly’s amendment of Virginia Code during its 2020 Session to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ as bases protected from discrimination made it possible for the County to expressly include these protections n its Human Rights Ordinance,” the county noted in its preview of Saturday’s County Board meeting.

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