VA Governor acts

After hearing criticism from many quarters, including Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, and from businesses who are discerning whether to locate in Virginia, Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell counters his own Attorney General on just how much protection gays and lesbians have under Virginia law.

McDonnell counters Cuccinelli’s advice on gays

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gov. Bob McDonnell is strengthening largely symbolic anti-bias protections for gay state employees, attempting to douse a political firestorm set when his attorney general decreed such safeguards don’t exist.

McDonnell, who previously had resisted legal protections for gay state employees, declared yesterday that as head of the government work force, he will not tolerate bias on the basis of sexual orientation and he threatened to fire offenders.

McDonnell was compelled to action after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told tax-supported colleges and universities last week that they have no legal foundation for protecting gay students and employees from discrimination.

. . .

Cuccinelli’s position echoed a 2006 opinion by McDonnell that declared unconstitutional part of an anti-bias order by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

The controversy — it ignited protests online and on campuses as well as in the General Assembly — threatened to tarnish McDonnell’s fledgling administration; made the state an object of ridicule on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”; and could complicate efforts to lure defense giant Northrop Grumman, which has gay-friendly employee policies, to relocate to Fairfax County from Los Angeles.

. . .

University of Virginia constitutional scholar A.E. Dick Howard said McDonnell’s pronouncement is important because while “it doesn’t create new law, [it] gives employees additional recourse under existing law.”

On March 7th, the Times-Dispatch ran this editorial:

Business: Virginia’s Test

In the Times-Dispatch

Virginia’s lawmakers have always been keen to encourage corporations to locate

in the Old Dominion. Can their desire to maintain the state’s reputation as a business-friendly state overcome their homophobia? That’s the implicit challenge contained in a letter from a Maryland state senator to Northrop Grumman, which is moving its headquarters from the West Coast to the East.

State Sen. Richard Madaleno notes that Northrop Grumman has long had policies friendly to gay and lesbian workers, including an employee-resource group, a policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, health insurance for same-sex partners, and bereavement and family-leave policies for them as well. That “culture of inclusion and nondiscrimination,” Madaleno writes, enables the company to attract top talent.

Madaleno notes that Maryland shares many of the same policies, as well as the values that inform them. By contrast, he says, “One of the first acts Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell has taken . . . was removing sexual orientation from executive orders banning discrimination in state employment.” He cites other indications of Virginia’s unfriendliness toward gay and lesbian individuals, and suggests Maryland would make a better fit for companies such as Northrop Grumman that prefer a different approach.

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