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.

Comments (9)

I think this is an extremely important development. It is becoming socially unacceptable to treat LGBT people differently than straight people under the law. Not only that, it is now perceived in many quarters as bad for business. All of this pushes society in the right direction.

Just to re-emphasize - this is the same governor who when he was AG sided with the "schismopalians"

Maryland Sen. Madaleno's a pretty smart guy. Discrimination is expensive.

As Rachel Maddow noted last night: Gov McDonnell's "Executive Directive" yesterday banning discrimination, does NOT override his "Executive Order" that REMOVED gays from protection (The "ED" has NO legal bearing). Yesterday's action was CYA, w/ "paper" not worth its ink.

[You can bet: henceforth McDonnell will run on his "Executive Order" in GOP primaries, and his (symbolic) "Executive Directive" only in the general election!]

JC Fisher

Exactly what I was wondering, JC Fisher. It's been framed as an override of the state Attorney General. But it's McDonnell's position as articulated in his executive order that came before the AG said anything. Has McDonnell expressly revised his executive order? Inquiring minds want to know.

The Jon Stewart video is recommended. It includes the point Ann raises -- that when he was AG, McDonnell supported Truro et al.

McDonnell of course has implicitly reversed himself b/c he'd have been to blame if Virginia loses out to Maryland for the Northrupp Grumman business. Still, he's shot himself in the foot with Northern Virginia. He ran away from his Regent University thesis in order to get votes in Northern Virginia. It will be hard for NoVa to forget this.

By the way, McD nominated his buddy Mims to the State Supreme Court and the senate has confirmed. (Mims is a former CANA member.) Mims was an Asst AG when McD entered the trial phase of the Episcopal/Truro property dispute.

I presume this means Mims will be recused from ruling on the appeal phase before the state Supreme Court in April. But I'm not a lawyers. Any lawyers out there who can answer that?

As a UVa grad who fought in the 1960's for integration and co-education at UVa against a Governor who had been part of the state's massive resistance to Brown v Board of Education, I am appalled that a contemporary governor would seek to strip away protections for glbt students, staff and faculty. I am sure most of NOVA is pink with shame at actions like these which bring derision on the State of Virginia.

McDonald and Cuccinelli have promised to follow all state (VA) and federal anti-discrimination laws. Of course, where gay people are concerned there aren't any. Does this promise strike anyone as a bit hollow?

In reference to my own question above here is the section of Virginia's Code of Ethics pertaining to when a judge would be disqualified from a case (oh, and according to Wikipedia, is a Supreme Court judge is recused the seat is filled by a retired SC or other judge).

More. Also in the Canons cited above, and more closely tied to the subject of this post:

"Canon 3 (B)5 - A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice. A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control to do so. This Section 3B(5) does not preclude proper judicial consideration when race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, or similar factors, are issues in the proceeding."

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