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RICHMOND — Deep inside complex legislation to legalize phone-based car services such as Uber and Lyft sat language meant to prohibit drivers from discriminating against gay or transgender riders.
The wording, picked up from legislation proposed in states where gay rights are enshrined in state code, went unnoticed until the bill made it to the state Senate floor. Once the passage was discovered, the bill was abruptly sent back to committee for what was described as a "technical" fix, stripped of that language and returned to the chamber, where it passed this week.
The matter was handled so quietly that activists on both sides of the gay-rights issue were in the dark until after the wording had been nixed — a change that took place at a quickie meeting of the Transportation Committee on the Senate floor, with members huddled around the desk of the panel’s chairman, Stephen Newman, R-Lynchburg.
The episode disappointed gay-rights activists and alarmed conservatives in a state where court rulings legalized gay marriage last year but where the state constitution still bans it. The Republican-controlled legislature has continued this year to kill bills to recognize gay marriage and other gay rights in state code.
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