HRC Blog

Virginia: State Employees Lose Protections from Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Gov. McDonnell has signed a new executive order that strips former protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation for employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia, while legislation to protect those employees has died in the state's legislature. state-employment-laws-policiesGov. McDonnell first opposed protecting employees based on sexual orientation when he was Attorney General, arguing that the state's discrimination policy should be defined by the legislature. His new order, which includes all previously protected categories including race, sex, religion and age – but not the previously protected category of sexual orientation – was signed on Feb. 5, but was first reported on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Current attorney general Ken Cuccinelli supports Gov. McDonell's legal reasoning. The Governor has released a policy he recently sent to staff members and Cabinet secretaries indicating that his office would not discriminate "for any reason," but his message could hardly be clearer: discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not prohibited. On Monday, Feb. 8, the state Senate passed SB 66 which would protect public employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The bill would codify and expand previous policy set by executive orders from former Governors Tim Kaine and Mark Warner based on sexual orientation only. The legislation is now in the House and HRC, along with our allies at Equality Virginia, are asking all residents of Virginia to contact their state delegate and the Governor to help ensure that SB 66 passes in the House. 12 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all public and private employers, and an additional 6 states have an executive or administrative order prohibiting discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Editor's note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the legislation died in a House subcommittee.  In fact a similar bill to the Senate legislation (HB 1116) was defeated in subcommittee but SB 66 remains alive in the House and deserves to be passed by that body.

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