The Office of Civil Rights in the Office of Attorney General was launched, according to a release from Attorney General Mark R. Herring.
The center is to expand, enhance, and centralize his ongoing work to protect Virginians from discrimination and to secure and expand the rights of all Virginians. The new designation of the Office of Civil Rights is the culmination of a multiyear plan to expand the authority and resources dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Virginians, and to place the protection of civil rights at the center of the mission of the Office of Attorney General.
Additionally, Herring is supporting legislation to make the Office of Civil Rights a permanent feature of the Office of Attorney General, ensuring that protection of Virginians’ civil rights will always be a priority.
“During my time as attorney general we have dramatically shifted the role and mission of the office to ensure that the protection and expansion of Virginians’ rights is at the center of all we do,” said Herring. “Over the last few years, we have added legal authority, resources, and incredible legal talent to our team, which now allows us to formally create the OAG’s first Office of Civil Rights.
“The new Office of Civil Rights is an historic step in turning the page on a past when the Commonwealth, and even its attorney general, was too often a threat to civil rights, rather than a guardian and champion for Virginians’ rights. In too many instances in the past, attorneys general fought to protect unjust and unconstitutional violations of Virginians rights, like going all the way to the Supreme Court to defend school segregation in Davis v. Prince Edward, a ban on interracial marriage in the Loving case, or unequal educational opportunities for women in the VMI case. But we have shown Virginians a different vision of an attorney general who fights for their rights no matter who threatens them, and we have won time and again.
“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. And the Office of Civil Rights will be a natural home for additional civil rights initiatives we hope to launch in conjunction with the General Assembly, like more robust protection of voting rights, protections for the civil rights of Virginians with disability, and more tools to combat healthcare discrimination and ensure education equity,” he said.
Under this new organization, the Office of Civil Rights will grow to a staff of 13, including seven attorneys and six professional staff, including investigators, working to protect Virginians’ civil rights and put a stop to violations. When Attorney General Herring took office, the Division of Human Rights had just one attorney and three additional staff members.