Tuesday, March 2, 2010

House of Delegates Refuses to Prevent Discrimination in the State Workforce

When Bob McDonnell refused to prevent discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the state workforce, he claimed it was something that should be done the General Assembly. This is despite the fact that previous governors had already issued executive orders that banned discrimination based solely on sexual orientation. Nonetheless, Donald McEachin said that he took the governor at his word that he thought the ban should be issued by the General Assembly and therefore decided to introduce a bill that would make sure that nobody in the state workforce could be discriminated against based simply because of who they love.

Unfortunately, the Republicans in the House of Delegates proved today that McDonnell and the GOP in Virginia aren't willing to prevent bigoted policies from prevailing. After McEachin’s bill (SB66), which was identical to the nondiscrimination executive order issued by Tim Kaine when he was in office, passed the state Senate on a 23-17 margin, defeated on a party line vote by the Republican-controlled Professions/ Occupations and Administrative Process subcommittee. As McEachin said in reaction to the vote, this shouldn’t be too surprising but it is still very disappointing.

“I’m disappointed with the House’s actions but I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Senator McEachin. “If we are going to be an inclusive society and a society that does not discriminate then we should have passed this bill to protect our state workers. It is far past time we ensure our personnel decisions are made on ability and not personal characteristics.”

I strongly believe this goes to show how last year’s election results will impact Virginia. If we had elected a Democratic governor, it’s likely that he/she would have continued the Virginia tradition of issuing an executive order that prevented discrimination in the state workforce. Since we have Bob McDonnell, however, he was willing to work with the Republican controlled House of Delegates to make sure that a significant portion of Virginians can still be discriminated against based solely upon who they love. This is simply unacceptable and definitely doesn’t help the Commonwealth at a time when our leadership is trying to market Virginia as a great place for employers and highly qualified workers to relocate.

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