Va Governor Robert McDonnell: Gay Discrimination Fireable Offense
As Virginia's college campuses experience an uproar over gay rights, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has now issued a directive to all 102,000 state employees Wednesday that prohibits discrimination in the state workforce, including on the basis of sexual orientation. In his directive, the Governor warns he will fire anyone who engages in such discrimination.
McDonnell Removes then Awards Protection Against Discrimination for Orientation
Last week, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) provoked campus outrage when he issued a formal letter to the state's public colleges and universities requiring them to remove all references to sexual orientation from their campus nondiscrimination policies. Cuccinelli says that only the General Assembly has the authority to extend legal protections to gays.
McDonnell (R) had supported Cuccinelli's legal stance and McDonnell said yesterday he continues to believe that without legislative approval, universities and state agencies cannot issue orders that would allow employees or others to sue in state court over discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
In a radical break with his Democratic predecessor's stance, McDonnell issued an executive order last month, which carries the force of law, on the issue of workplace discrimination that did not mention sexual orientation.
College Students & Staff Pressure Retraction
Because of the outrage among students, college presidents and others, the Governor seemed forced to address discrimination in his formal statement.
The directive is a formal statement issued by the Governor that hiring, promotion, compensation, treatment, discipline and termination of state employees can be based only on an individual's job qualifications, merit and performance.
McDonnell was elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia in November, for his pledge to fix the economy and for his conservative cultural values.
Gay Rights Groups Pleased
The gay rights group Equality Virginia called McDonnell's directive a "a major positive step forward," but said it will continue to fight for anti-discrimination rights that include gender identity and sexual orientation.
The presidents of the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia also lauded the Governor for his latest action. Leaders of the Northern Virginia Technology Council also applauded the news and said in a press statement that they thought Cuccinelli's opinion had been an "unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion," which would have negative impact on the governance of state institutions and the economy of Virginia.
Culture Wars Between Academia and General Public
Since the early 1990s, the gap between the "politically correct" ideology of academia and the attitudes of the general public. has widened in the conservative states. The Virginia Governor's and Attorney General's recent actions reveal entrenchment in both camps and how difficult it is to reverse more liberal stances by fiat.
A Commonwealth of Virgina blog said the uproar signaled a return to 1960s' freedom protests on the Richmond campus as students rallied against McDonnell and Cuccinelli. Another political blog noted that this was a case of "bigots forced to back down under pressure".
McDonnell's directive came on the same day that more than 1,000 students rallied at Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University and as reaction to Cuccinelli's letter had been growing nationally and within Virginia's business community. The topic was a subject of a lengthy segment on The Daily Show Tuesday and some students had been sending e-mails about their concerns to Northrop Grumman, the defense corporation weighing sites around the region for its corporate headquarters, urging them to avoid Virginia.
Democrats have risen on the floor of the legislature each day this week to rail against the Attorney General's action and to call on McDonnell to send legislation to the General Assembly that would codify discrimination before the annual session adjourns Saturday.
They were countered on the House floor Wednesday by Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who suggested the reaction against Cuccinelli might be an attack against his Catholic faith.
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