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Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell invites the firing of state employees solely for being gay

Timothy Kincaid

February 18th, 2010

On Tuesday, Mrs. Jones told her pupils, “Hello class, I’ve noticed that you’ve been picking on a few of the children. It must stop, so I will not tolerate any abuse towards Alice, Bobby, or Carlos.”

    On Wednesday, Mrs. Jones said, “Today I have a new rule, different from yesterday’s rule. From now on you cannot abuse Alice or Bobby.”
    Carlos went home that day with a black eye.

Bob McDonnellThe Washington Post is reporting on a change in state hiring policy enacted by new Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has signed an executive order barring discrimination in the state workforce on grounds that include race, sex, religion and age, but not sexual orientation.

Previous governors included sexual orientation.

There really is no way to translate this action other than that McDonnell believes that sexual orientation, in and of itself, can and should be used as a sole cause for firing state employees or denying promotion. This action by their governor is an open invitation for supervisors or managers to fire or demote employees. And it is likely to happen.

But what is even more likely to occur is abuse, harassment, and antagonizing of gay people. If a coworker calls someone a “damn pervert”, that’s not going to be punished. If the morning meeting is started by a daily f*ggot joke, there’s no recourse. If a state employee shares how they lost the paperwork of the “flaming queen in my line” to gales of laughter, that will not be illegal discrimination. And posting big signs quoting Leviticus or “protecting marriage” will not be an indication of a hostile workplace.

How can there be any respect or consideration, any objection to abuse, if the official state policy is “it’s OK to fire the queers!!”

Comments

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Rossi
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

I’m not a huge fan of big federal programs like ENDA, but this sure is the poster child reason for why they are necessary. Even without it, though, I kind of doubt the scenario will play out as dramatically as you put it. After all, most states had this kind of language in place (or do right now, actually) and you’re not hearing much.

Although, IMO, one is too many.

Charlie
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

This is no surprise. He can promote his new kinder gentler persona but he is still a Christian homophobe.

Politicians will say anything to get elected.

Swampfox
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

Not a good move on his part. In fact, just plain stupid.

Neko
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

Uh… I wouldn’t be surprised if this plays out just as dramatically as posted. I live in Virginia. The more liberal part (Northern Virginia), in fact. And yet? I’ve been in several situations where I’ve been harassed (not violently, but my former male coworkers were openly convinced that all I needed was a good man to fix me) at work, and I can’t do a thing about it. I’m not the only one, either: at my old job, I had several gay coworkers, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to get called all sorts of horrible names when the managers were mad at them.

I remember one situation in specific where we had a Hispanic worker call one of the gay workers a “fucking faggot”, and when the gay guy (STUPIDLY) countered by calling him a “wetback”, it was the gay worker who got sent home and was almost fired. The Hispanic worker never even got a verbal reprimand for his behavior.

Really, to be honest… being in Virginia scares me. Nothing anti-gay that they do could surprise me anymore. I don’t even like going further down into the state because I’m quite convinced that I could be raped, beaten, or killed for being gay.

CPT_Doom
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

Well, I think Governor McDonnell did this DC queer a big favor. Sure I believe in the inherent equality of LGBT human beings, and that our work should be judged on our skills, abilities and productivity only, so I favor nondiscrimination policies.

However, as a big queen, I am also required to shop to maintain my fabulous lifestyle. The DC area has so many options for that shopping – not only in a variety of stores but also of shopping centers – that it can be quite daunting to know where to go. Thanks to Governor McDiscrimination, I can eliminate all Virginia based retailers and shopping centers.

See, Neko, life can be better in the Union – just leave the Confederacy to putrify in its hate.

David C.
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

Watch for a big wrongful termination or workplace harassment suit downstream. Lambda Legal or the ACLU will have their work cut out for them at some point as a result of this.

johnathan
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

Now, I live in Arizona, so considering how severely messed up AZ is at this moment, I hesitate to write this, but…

I don’t believe I could ever muster the courage to enter the Virginia state line. After reading some of the Virginia laws, I, too, believe I would be shot upon entry into the state. The land of (former) Falwell and Pat Robertson. Say no more.

To those of you with your sanity who live in Virginia…how on earth do you manage?

Frijondi
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

@Neko. Thanks for the reality check, and thanks for providing a female perspective. Nothing like that special combination of sexual harassment, gay bashing, and intimidation, especially when it’s done by men who probably think you should be barefoot and pregnant.

I’ve encountered similar things in California, but at least one has some recourse out here. In theory, that is — it’s not always effective. But the idea of facing the kind of harassment you describe with no rights or remedies whatsoever is horrifying. I have nothing but admiration for people who keep their sanity under those circumstances.

@jonathan. Ever since the Langbehn-Pond tragedy hit the news, I have been unwilling to travel to states that have laws on the books forbidding the recognition of gay couples in any way, shape, or form. Not because I want to make a statement, but because I refuse to risk ending up in a similar situation. Even though the risk is small, it’s just not worth it.

Dan
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

There is sometimes recourse for people who have been harassed or discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and don’t have explicit legal protection. For example, courts have ruled that Title VII sometimes protects LGBT people. It isn’t nearly enough, and the need for ENDA is urgent. But here are a couple of links:
http://www.abanet.org/irr/hr/summer04/protectlgbt.html
http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202433449001

Mason
February 18th, 2010 | LINK

This means that a gay supervisor can fire a straight state employee for being straight, right?

Fred
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

Forgive a rather stupid question from a Brit. Surely these protections from discrimination at work are something that all Virginians should enjoy, not just those that work for the State? Furthermore, should these protections be given or removed at the whim of the Governor? I.e. isn’t the bigger and more important story the historical inaction of the Virginia’s State Legislature, rather than the actions of its most recent Governor?

ZRAinSWVA
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

I live in Virginia as well. It can sometimes be a politically uncomfortable place to reside.

The coming political maneuvering, though, is likely to be interesting:

SB 66 – McEachin – State employment; discrimination prohibited.
Prohibits discrimination in public employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended. The bill defines “sexual orientation” as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression. The bill expressly provides that “sexual orientation” shall not include any person’s attraction toward persons with whom sexual conduct would be illegal due to the age of the parties. The bill contains technical amendments. http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=101&typ=bil&val=sb66.

Given the Governor’s position, and his statements on this matter, one wonders if he would veto the bill if (and it’s a big if) it successfully passes in the General Assembly.

Also of interest: every institute of higher education (and many localities) in Virginia now have nondiscrimination policies which exceed the scope ‘allowed’ by the Governor. Word on the street is that those will need to be amended to reflect the stance allowed by the Executive Order; if so, I hope there will be a cry of outrage from the college campuses.

CPT_Doom
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

Fred, you are correct that such protections should be in place for all workplaces. Unfortunately, protection against discrimination for LGBT people in the US is currently the whim of the states. In 28 states you can still be fired for the crime of being LGBT. There is a federal bill proposed that would correct this, but is not being pushed by the Administration or Congress (although I bet they promise to get right on it if we continue to donate to the Dems – which I won’t). Meanwhile Democratic Governors in hate states like Virginia have tried to add some minimal protections for LGBT state workers through Executive Orders. Unfortunately, those Orders expire and/or can be overturned by the next Governor, as we’ve seen here.

Swampfox
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

“To those of you with your sanity who live in Virginia…how on earth do you manage? – Johnathan”

I don’t believe that there are that many states that have such anti-discrimination laws. I live in South Carolina.

Fred
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

ZRAinSWVA, Why does the Governor’s Executive Order prevent Higher Education Institutions and local government from providing protection to their employees from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation on the basis of their own authority?

johnathan
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

Fred, I am guessing (and this is just a guess) this is because PUBLIC higher education instutions, such as state universities, colleges, are under the purview of the state government. Thus, an Executive Order from the Governor affects all offices operating under the State/Commonwealth of Virginia and employees therewithin. Private universities, colleges, and educational institutions are not affected.

Rob in San diego
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

So even though governors before included sexual orientation, it can be removed just like that? WTF?

johnathan
February 19th, 2010 | LINK

Rob, yes it can. Until such classes are added by legislative or voter action, or forced by judicial rule, an executive order may be either left alone (i.e. left in force) or revoked all together by the next in line (or whomever wishes to do so).

Arizona’s previous governor, Janet Napolitano included sexual orientation as a protected class for non-discrimination in state employment and benefits. After she left to head the DHS, our new “Governor” — and I use that term lightly — Jan Brewer, threatened to revoke the protected status. (Or did she, in fact, remove it?) Any other Arizonans on this board to confirm/deny this for me?

ZRAinSWVA
February 20th, 2010 | LINK

jonathan, as I understand it, yes, all public institutions are subject to the rules established by Executive Order. It does not affect private institutions.

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