Virginia’s McDonnell Reverses Gay Protections
Virginia’s new Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, reversed his predecessor’s order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It happened twelve days ago but no one apparently noticed until TPM’s Christina Bellantoni broke the story:
Gay and lesbian state workers in Virginia are no longer specifically protected against discrimination, thanks to a little-noticed change made by new Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell (R) on Feb. 5 signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination “on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities,” as well as veterans. It rescinds the order that Gov. Tim Kaine signed Jan. 14, 2006 as one of his first actions. After promising a “fair and inclusive” administration in his inaugural address, Kaine (D) added veterans to the non-discrimination policy – and sexual orientation.
In another development, the Washington Post reported that a measure passed the Democratic-controlled state Senate that would protect state workers from discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The bill is all-but-certain to fail in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
Not a particularly surprising development. McDonnell is an unabashed evangelical and social conservative and Virginia is, outside the DC suburbs where I live, a staunchly conservative state.
Further, McDonnell’s office issued a statement saying, “It shall be the policy of the office of the Governor to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace, encourage excellence by rewarding achievement based on merit, and prohibit discrimination for any reason. Hiring, promotion, discipline and termination of employees shall be based on qualifications, performance and results.” One presumes that will in fact be the case.
Indeed, it’s difficult to see how the state government could win a suit in which there was blatant discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation regardless of the state of this executive order. My sense, then, is that this is a sop to the base with no meaning. It’s interesting, though, that this was done with so little fanfare that we’re just now hearing about it.