Story to Watch: VA Board of Juvenile Justice Upholds Protections for LGBT Youth

On Tuesday, the Virginia Board of Juvenile Justice voted 5-1 to continue including specific language which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in rules governing residential facilities.  This marks the third time in a year and a half that the Board has reaffirmed protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, protections that have been in existence since 2005.

In June 2010, and again in June 2011, the Board approved new final regulations governing residential facilities.  Though there were some modifications to the 2005 regulations, the 2010 and 2011 approved regulations kept intact protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.  However, due to opposition from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the final rules have been languishing for more than a year in a post-adoption executive review process.

Now on three separate occasions, June 2010, June 2011 and January 2012, a near unanimous ruling has been issued by the Virginia Board of Juvenile Justice in support of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"Equality Virginia continues to be grateful that the Board and the professional staff of the Department of Juvenile Justice recognize the vulnerable position of the youth in their care who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, and their ongoing need for protection from discrimination in non-residential and residential programs operated under the Department's auspices," said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, in a statment released Tuesday.

(Protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in non-residential facilities have been effective since July 1, 2011.)

For the media professionals covering this story, it is important that the final regulations upheld Tuesday not be framed as a debate.  On three separate occasions, a group of very thoughtful adults have concluded, almost unanimously, that no young person should experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation, including LGBT youth.  This is the story that needs to be reported.

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