Loudoun Independent gets it

A beautifully written, concise, on-point editorial:

A Waste of 20 Minutes?

Let’s pretend that you have a new girlfriend or boyfriend. You meet them, you like them and you begin dating—maybe you even move in together. Later on, you’re fired because your boss (or his boss, or an elected official way up the chain of command) doesn’t like who you happen to be dating.

It seems outrageous, but prior to this week it was a perfectly plausible outcome for an employee of the Loudoun County government who happened to be gay or lesbian.

There will doubtless be those who become histrionic about a Jan. 5 decision by the Board of Supervisors to enact a county policy not to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, claiming either that gays and lesbians are being given “special rights” or that the decision adds to the moral decay of the country by condoning a certain lifestyle. There is credence in neither argument.

Under the additional protection, county employees can still be fired for cause or when their position is eliminated because of budget cuts. It only states that someone shouldn’t be fired or denied a job because of who they happen to be dating or how they choose to identify themselves. It should be noted that “sexual orientation” adds that level of protection for heterosexuals as well, although they may not need it.

For those who are concerned about the message this decision sends or the overall moral caliber of the community, we can only assure you that Virginia has a long history of letting neighbors be neighbors and letting what goes on in someone’s personal life remain personal. It’s a tradition in jeopardy, but one worthy of saving.

Talking to reporters after Tuesday’s vote, Board Chairman Scott York (I-At Large) derided the motion, stating that it was unnecessary and that the discussion was “a waste of 20 minutes.”

This is the response of someone who does not understand the issue. Virginia has passed legislation banning same-sex marriage and has consistently not acted to protect the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians. (Although, Gov. Tim Kaine did mandate in 2006 that state agencies not discriminate based on sexual orientation.) In the most recent election, Virginia elected three socially conservative officials for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General. While social conservative ideals were not part of the storefront of their respective campaigns, none of them are likely to defend the rights of gays and lesbians. Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli (R) is on record with his belief that state policies should reflect his belief that “homosexual acts are wrong.”

With that in mind, existing county employees and qualified applicants researching Virginia’s current approach to equal protection for gays and lesbians might feel that having a nondiscrimination policy in writing is extremely comforting. Those listening to the borderline-incomprehensible arguments against the proposal by Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) would likely demand that those protections be in place.

There has not been a well-documented history of discrimination in Loudoun over these recent years. However, in the current economic climate, Loudoun will have to make do with less. To do that, we’ll be asking a lot from our county employees and from the citizens across Loudoun. A strong nondiscrimination policy attracts stronger applicants (gay and straight) and it allows those gays and lesbians already working for the county a sense of respect and security that will allow them to dedicate themselves to their jobs.

The decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy tells residents and employees that so long as you do your job well and pay your taxes, then you’re welcome here. It may have been true before, but sometimes it’s nice to say it out loud.

Was it a waste of time to guarantee that Loudoun continues to not discriminate?

Absolutely not.

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