Virginia governor's anti-bias order removes language regarding sexual orientation

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

RICHMOND -- 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.

The order, which McDonnell (R) signed Feb. 5, cements federal law, which prohibits discrimination on those grounds.

It also follows McDonnell's long-standing position on the issue of legal protections based on sexual orientation. McDonnell had criticized his two Democratic predecessors for including language about it in their similar executive orders, arguing they overstepped their executive authority by extending protections to gay employees not envisioned by the General Assembly.

"This order is in furtherance of the stated policy enacted by the General Assembly, and specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities," reads the order.

McDonnell is the first Virginia governor in more than 30 years not to sign an order on the issue of discrimination on the grounds covered by federal law as one of his first acts in office.

After a Washington Post report appeared on the subject late last month, McDonnell told reporters that he thought the previous order signed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) remained in effect, with the exception of the portions on sexual orientation that McDonnell had formally resisted as attorney general.

McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson said in a statement that the administration has been reviewing all previous executive orders since taking office Jan. 16.

"The previous Executive Order on discrimination, minus the one addition previously found not to be in the Governor's authority to make, has been in effect this entire time," she wrote. "Upon review of that Executive Order, the Administration determined that some changes needed to be made to ensure compliance with state law. Those changes have been made, and this has resulted in the issuance of a new Executive Order on the subject."

Johnson said McDonnell opposes discrimination and released a policy he recently sent to staff members and Cabinet secretaries indicating that his office would not discriminate "for any reason."

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