SB 66 State employment; discrimination prohibited.

I’ve been astounded by those local commentators who erroneously insist that “Virginia law already protects everyone” from discrimination, and that therefore the Loudoun board action was redundant. The fact that SB 66 is being heard in committee today would seem to suggest otherwise – as would the fact that these apologists have been unable to produce any evidence of a Virginia law that protects anyone. I understand that some folks have trouble admitting that they’re wrong, but this is beyond ridiculous.

In this Richmond Times-Dispatch guest column, David Lampo explains:

…But Republicans could lose it all again if we let our party go back to the culture wars and religious extremism that some in our party seem to relish. Not only must we resist the divisive urges of the more extreme elements of our party; we need to restore the image of our party to one of social tolerance and support for individual liberty, two of the important values it was built on. Those are the values that helped bring victory to Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, and Scott Brown.

One of the ways to do this is to implement a policy of employment nondiscrimination for all government employees, including gays and lesbians. Virginia currently has no statute establishing a statewide policy against discrimination in employment for any public employees. [Emphasis mine.] Former Gov. Linwood Holton extended protection against discrimination to state employees in his Executive Order 1, and near the end of his term, former Gov. Mark Warner became the first governor to amend his Executive Order 1 to include protections for veterans and gays and lesbians.

During his campaign, McDonnell repeatedly stated his opposition to discrimination in state employment, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. An overwhelming majority of voters in Virginia[*] and the nation join McDonnell in his support for equal employment opportunity for all, including gays and lesbians. By supporting legislation that codifies the policy against nondiscrimination in state employment, the legislature would simply be following the lead of voters and the new governor in guaranteeing state employees freedom from discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, disability, age, religion, veteran’s status, and sexual orientation.

* Two statewide polls in 2005 and 2007 conducted by the bi-partisan team of Fabrizio McLaughlin & Associates and The Schapiro found that:

Virginia voters consistently show overwhelmingly strong support for protection against anti-gay workplace discrimination, especially when it comes to the rights of public employees. Strong majorities support gays’ and lesbians’ right to work for the government (90%), to be protected from workplace discrimination (87%), and to teach in public schools (79%). Support is strong across party and demographic lines.

The crosstabs show that 80% of Republicans support workplace nondiscrimination laws, and 88% of Republicans support the right of gay and lesbian people to work for the government.

The bill is being heard today at 2:00 pm in the Senate General Laws committee. Please call your Senator and ask that they support this bill. Senator Mark Herring’s number is (804) 698-7533.

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