Thursday, February 09, 2006

Finding the Positive

Today at the legislature something good happened. A group of students from Hampton University (down at the General Assembly to lobby for TAG grants and funding for some new fangled technology) sat in on the Senate General Laws committee where SB 700 was being debated.

SB 700 is the bill that would (finally) make explicit and codify the Commonwealth's policy against discrimination in the public workplace, prohibiting, among other things, discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The bill was superbly presented by its patrons, Senators Lucas and Locke and there was positive testimony on the bill by the Virginia Governmental Employees Association, the Virginia Education Association, People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, Equality Virginia and an individual state employee on the board of the VGEA. But, the fun didn't get started until the advocate for the Independent Baptists (arguing against the bill) got into a theological debate with Senator Yvonne Miller. (I could sell tickets to the replay). He was followed by an advocate for Concerned Women of America who described herself as having been "in homosexuality" in the past. From my perspective at least, it seemed that the longer that the opponents talked the closer our side got to getting the bill reported out of committee. Unfortunately, that was not to be, the bill failed to report by a vote of 6-8-1.

The good part was this .... after listening carefully to the presentation of the bill and the ensuing debate the students from Hampton adjourned to the lobby where I observed them engaged in an extended and very lively debate among themselves about the policy questions and arguments for and against the bill.

It was good to see the students excited about what was happening and engaged by the debate regardless of which side they were on.

As Larry Sabato often says, "politics is a good thing!" I think that the students from Hampton present today would agree.

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