Since his time as attorney general, now Governor Bob McDonnell has taken the lazy way out and mouthed platitudes about not condoning discrimination with respect to state employees. More recently, during his campaign for governor, McDonnell claimed that he had evolved since the days when he wrote his CBN University thesis which among other things advocated that the civil laws should punish gays when ever possible to discourage their "lifestyle."
Now as governor, McDonnell has lamely blamed the Virginia General Assembly for its failure to pass employment non-discrimination protections for GLBT Virginians as his rationale for rescinding protections for gay Virginians employed by the Commonwealth. In short, he has pretended that his hands have been tied by the legislature. Frankly, it's McDonnell's way of talking out of both sides of his mouth: claiming he's not a bigot while not doing anything that would upset his puppeteers at The Family Foundation and Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
Jon Blair, Executive Director of Equality Virginia has called McDonnell's bluff: procedurally McDonnell can introduce a bill instituting protections for LGBT employees in the ongoing legislative session and demand that Republicans who have heretofore killed such legislation support the bill in order to demonstrate that Virginia does not support legalized discrimination against any of it's citizens.
Here are some highlights from Jon's letter:
The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell
Governor of Virginia
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218
Dear Governor McDonnell:
I write to ask you to end your silence, and to act on behalf of all Virginians.
Since taking office in January, you have chosen not to support efforts to amend Virginia law to codify a state "policy" against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. You have explained your inaction and your "no position" on pending legislation saying that you have a "policy" against such discrimination in your office, even though that "policy" does not, and according to the opinion you once issued as Attorney General, cannot apply to all state employees or even to the employees of your own Cabinet members.
Now, a letter, signed on March 4, 2010 by the current Attorney General and sent to the state's colleges and universities, casts doubt, under your own legal analysis, about whether you can even enforce a "policy" of nondiscrimination within the Office of the Governor.
If yours and the Attorney General's analysis of existing state law is correct (and we strongly question whether it is), this means that you would be acting without legal authority if, as Governor, you sought to enforce your "policy" against discrimination to protect any person in your office from adverse action based on his/her sexual orientation or gender identity. Thus, you cannot argue with any validity that you can, as Governor, protect anyone from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity without a change in the law.
The good news is that it is not too late for you to exert leadership to change the law, as many Virginians, our academic and business leaders, and the Richmond Times Dispatch and other editorial writers have urged you to do. Under the Constitution of Virginia and the legislative procedural rules, you may send a bill down for consideration at any time before the legislature adjourns sine die on Saturday, March 13, 2010.
Accordingly, Equality Virginia respectfully requests that you write the House of Delegates or the Senate requesting the immediate introduction of either or both of the following:
- a bill to amend the nondiscrimination policy in Section 2.2-3900 B.1. of the Virginia Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity (such legislation would moot the Attorney General's advice to the colleges); and
- a bill identical to SB 66 governing nondiscrimination in the state workforce or HB 1116 governing nondiscrimination in state and local employment (such legislation would implement the nondiscrimination policy for public employees, including those in your office and at state universities and colleges).
Failure to take positive action during this legislative session to encourage enactment of a state policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be seen by the thousands of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender Virginians (and the many thousands more Virginians who count themselves among their families and allies) as confirming that your promise of a "Commonwealth of Opportunity" is a hollow one for them.
Repeating that you believe discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong no longer carries any weight. The Attorney General's and your legal opinion makes crystal clear you believe (rightly or wrongly) that neither you nor any other state officer has authority to hold anyone accountable when they practice such discrimination.
Very truly yours,
Chief Executive Officer, Equality Virginia
Kudos to Jon for laying out the procedural root for McDonnell. If he fails to accept Equality Virginia's challenge, it will confirm that McDonnell's entire campaign as a "GOP moderate" was nothing but a calculated lie and that he still believes the manifesto set forth in his CBN thesis.
Bob, act now or let the world know that you are indeed a bigot and that no voter anywhere should believe a Republican pretending to be a moderate in future elections.