Council Asks Legislature for Gay Employment Protections

City Council has unanimously agreed to ask the General Assembly to prohibit discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation, the Progress reports.

Right now state law makes it perfectly legal for state agencies to fire somebody for being gay (or, for that matter, straight), although both Gov. Tim Kaine and his predecessor, Mark Warner, have issued executive orders enacting such prohibitions, though the current executive order will expire with Kaine’s term in January. (Kaine’s executive order was his first action in office, in fact.) The Republican candidate for governor, Bob McDonnell, opposed Kaine’s executive order, and issued an opinion against it in his capacity as attorney general in 2006. Executive orders don’t have the legal strength of a law—in March Martinsville’s Virginia Museum of Natural History fired a man for being gay.

The General Assembly is no stranger to debates over the topic. I sat in on a debate over a bill that would prohibit such discrimination back in February of 2006 and, while it was hilarious, it made it pretty clear to me that a bill like this won’t pass so long as Republicans control the House of Delegates, regardless of what Charlottesville City Council wants Richmond to do.

10 thoughts on “Council Asks Legislature for Gay Employment Protections”

  1. “Right now state law makes it perfectly legal for state agencies to fire somebody for being gay…”

    Call for clarification: is this literally true? There are lots of categories that are not included among the ones in Virginia’s Equal Employment Opportunity law, which currently includes “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” based on one of the links above. For example, “gamblers” is not a protected category. But if I were a supervisor in a state agency and fired an employee, and gave as cause “I have learned that this employee is a gambler”, surely that would not stand as sufficient cause for termination if the employee filed a complaint? Wouldn’t that also be true if I fired an employee and gave as the *only* reason “I have learned that this employee is homosexual”?

    Also, UVA HR policies very very clearly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and staff is made thoroughly aware of this. Would McDonnell have a problem with that policy? Could he alter it?

    If the answers to the questions in either paragraph are “yes” then the prospect of a Governor McDonnell becomes a lot more scary.

  2. Call for clarification: is this literally true?

    My understanding—and I’m no attorney—is that any public employee who can be fired without cause can be fired for their sexual orientation. If somebody has a position that is protected (such as a professor with tenure), then that wouldn’t apply. And that little bit of knowledge is all I’ve got. :)

    I’ll bet is that a reader will know way more about this than I do, though. I’d love to get some details.

  3. My understanding is that Sexual orientation is not a protected classification in the state of Virginia. Any employer public or private can without fear of legal recourse fire someone for being Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Transgendered. But I’m not a lawyer. Contractual situations (like Tenure) of course are the exception.

  4. I re-read my prior post (what was I thinking?). I should have just written – “I heard the same thing but from a different source (lawyer friend).”

  5. A message from Equality Virginia said Charlottesville would join Arlington, Alexandria, and Blacksburg in supporting protection of employment rights for LFBT people.
    Blacksburg? Darn , those Hokies always seem to be ahead of us in everything!

  6. At some point, our kids are going to be running the show, and (although I have no illusions that things will be a perfect utopia) stuff like this will not only be law, it will be considered absurd that it ever wasn’t. Wish I could be around in a few generations when the term “gay marriage” just means “marriage.” Of course, at that point, the earth will be hotter and we’ll have other problems to face….

  7. Hollowboy, I’d imagine Blacksburg makes the list because in 2003, Tech’s Board of Visitors passed a resolution that homosexual employees or prospective employees would no longer be protected against discrimination. Their argument was that state law did not protect homosexual employees from discrimination, so university policies should be consistent with state law. Students (and maybe some faculty and other Blacksburg residents as well) heavily protested, standing on the Drillfield outside the main administration building with signs reading “Virginia is for Haters.” Eventually, the BOV reversed its decision and to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been challenged since.

  8. Interesting information. That is the same argument people use against the UVA BOV offering protection from discrimination- that it is in conflict with state law.
    And the Marriage Amendment gives the anti-protection element even more arguments.
    Love to see it repealed- but realistically don’t see it happening. Not unless the US Supreme Court were to declare all bans on gay marriage umconstitutional.

  9. There would be no questions left unanswered if the every state agency could adopt the policy Virginia sheriffs have by law. They can hire and fire at will, at any time, with or without cause. A lot of sheriffs still use this policy to their advantage, they fire deputies so they can magically create an opening for their friends or family members.

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