Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Rolls Back Non-Discrimination Protections For Gay State Workers

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.

McDonnell’s office sent along this memo from his chief of staff that they have suggested to reporters prevents any and all discrimination. It reads, in part:

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.

But the LGBT trade press sees it as a “sad” development that strips state workers of protections that they had under the last administration.

Kaine declined to comment through spokesman Hari Sevugan, who said McDonnell should be “ashamed” for the new policy.

Sevugan said:

It says a lot about the Republican party that they would anoint as their ‘rising star’ someone who in 2010 is actually stripping away from Americans legal protections against discrimination. Bob McDonnell is proving his critics right. He said he’d focus on creating jobs, not social issues. But, one of his first acts as Governor was to make it easier for a fellow citizen to be denied a job and he did so as an adherent to a right-wing ideology that allows for such discriminatory behavior. McDonnell’s decision is just plain wrong in any context, but especially so in this economic climate.

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.

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