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Virginia’s McDonnell Reverses Gay Protections

Bob McDonnell Gay Rights OrderVirginia’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.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    McDonnell is an unabashed evangelical and social conservative and Virginia is, outside the DC suburbs where I live, a staunchly conservative state.

    Question: Is the picture accompanying the story a picture of a gay person affected by the decision, or is that McDonnell?

    It’s not so clear since the gaydar registers high levels when confronted with that pic.

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  2. wr says:

    But of course McDonnell ran as a centrist, assuring the independants that he really wasn’t the same guy who wrote a college thesis saying that women should be shackled barefoot to the stove. And if anyone suggested that perhaps his beliefs hadn’t changed, they were quickly shouted down as bigots who hated America.

    Now he’s been elected and he can enact his true agenda. Republicans have figured out how to win — lie about who they are.

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  3. Mithras says:

    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.

    This is just legally incorrect. The courts of the state of Virginia follow an at-will employment doctrine. In at-will states, you may be fired for any reason or no reason, so long as it’s not a breach of your employment contract or a violation of discrimination law.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    The courts of the state of Virginia follow an at-will employment doctrine. In at-will states, you may be fired for any reason or no reason, so long as it’s not a breach of your employment contract or a violation of discrimination law.

    True. My impression was that governments were held to a higher standard but I could be mistaken.

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  5. Mithras says:

    I am not a Virginia lawyer and perhaps there is some quirk in case law that makes it different from other states. The general rule is that, when acting as an employer, the government has the same rights as a private employer.

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  6. steve says:

    Nice to know that religious beliefs can be used for making policy decisions and no one bats an eye.

    Steve

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  7. [...] Outside The Beltway | 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. [...]

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