By: Billy B. Ruhling, II
The cultural awakening our nation has experienced over the last year in the wake of police shootings and the recognition that what had once been common behavior toward certain gender groups no longer is acceptable in the Old Dominion. On January 5, 2020, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the existing Office of Human Rights would be restructured in order to create a new Office of Civil Rights. Along with the name change, the staffing will be significantly increased, and the new office will have a more encompassing scope of reach.
This change builds upon a series of bills passed in the General Assembly last year authorizing Virginia’s Attorney General to investigate discrimination in local police departments as well as enhancing the Attorney General’s ability to protect LGBTQ rights and to root out gender-based discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights will be staffed by seven attorneys and six staff members, which is a dramatic change from the Office of Human Rights’ prior complement of just one attorney and three staff members. As Attorney General Herring explained when announcing the change, “The Office of Civil Rights will enhance our ability to protect Virginians from discrimination in housing, employment and public life, as well as allow us to tackle new responsibilities, like ‘pattern and practice’ investigations that can root out and end unconstitutional policing and enforcing protections against discrimination for LGBTQ Virginians.”
The new office can be reached at 804-225-2292 or CivilRights.oag.state.va.us.