McDonnell: No 'rampant discrimination' against gay employees

By Rosalind Helderman
Thursday, March 25, 2010; 6:20 PM

Gov. Bob McDonnell said today that Virginia does not need to write protections for gays and lesbians into state statute because he has not seen evidence of discrimination in the state workforce.

Breaking with the practice of his Democratic predecessors, McDonnell did not include sexual orientation in an executive order he issued barring discrimination in the state workforce shortly after taking office.

He argued that he could not include protections for gays without authority from the General Assembly, which has repeatedly declined to adopt a law on the issue. But in past interviews, McDonnell has never been clear about whether he supported the General Assembly taking action. He told Post columnist Bob McCartney that he might, in fact, sign such a law if passed.

But asked today on the "Ask the Governor" program at Richmond's WRVA radio whether he would sign such legislation, he said, "I don't know that we need it based on the numbers that I've seen."

He added: "There really isn't any rampant discrimination on any basis in Virginia. If you're going to have a law, it needs to actually address a real problem."

The issue has received increased attention since Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote letters to every public university in Virginia asking them to rescind nondiscrimination policies that mentioned sexual orientation because he said those policies had been adopted without legislative authority.

In response to the ensuing controversy, McDonnell then issued an executive directive indicating that state employees who discriminate, including on the basis of sexual orientation, will face sanctions on the job. McDonnell indicated that he could offer no legal protections without legislative approval.

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