Saturday, February 27, 2010

Is Virginia's Homophobia Hurting Its Economy?

The Washington Post reports in Saturday's edition that a bidding war in the DC Metro area to attract aerospace and defense manufacturing giant Northrop Grumman has taken an interesting turn of events with a queer twist. In January the world's fourth largest defense contractor announced plans to relocate from the Los Angeles area to the Washington, DC area by the end of 2011. Naturally both Maryland and Virginia would love to be the new home state of the company that ranked 76 on the Fortune 500 in 2008.

According to The Post, LGBT rights groups and the state of Maryland are pressuring Northrop Grumman not to choose Virginia based on the commonwealth's anti-gay Marriage Amendment and Gov. Bob McDonnell's failure to include LGBT state workers in the executive order he signed earlier this month banning workplace discrimination.

The Post reports: In a letter sent Thursday to the company's CEO, Maryland State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) argued his state's stand on gay rights better mirrors the company's own longstanding commitment to gay and lesbian employees.

"Here in Maryland, we value our gay and lesbian citizens as part of a diverse population that makes the state strong," Madaleno wrote. "Virginia is doing the opposite and letting its LGBT citizens -- and those considering whether to move and work there -- know that they and their families are unwelcome second-class citizens. And they are counting on corporations like yours not to care."

The Los Angeles-based company is currently deciding between Virginia, Maryland and the District as a new home for its 300 top executives, running an unusually public contest among the three.

Both Madaleno and Equality Virginia have written letters to Northrop Grumman CEO, Wesley Bush urging the defense contractor to pick Maryland and accusing Virginia Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of turning back the clock on civil rights, while Maryland's attorney general announced this week that the state will recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Northrop Grumman has consistently received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign for its workplace protections of LGBT employees.

The Post article contiues, Tucker Martin, a spokesman for McDonnell, responded that companies can enact the same corporate policies for their own employees in Virginia as in other states. He jabbed back at the Maryland rhetoric, insisting Virginia has been winning jobs because it doesn't have the "high taxes and excessive government interference and regulations found in some neighboring states."

"This Maryland legislator isn't really interested in job-creation," Martin said. "If he was, he would spend his time trying to enact Virginia's model of low taxes, limited regulation and strong right-to-work laws."

In other words, the governor of Virginia is abdicating his responsibility to protect the citizens of his own state because private employers are free to choose whether or not to discriminate against their employees. Write that down and remember it every election day (because we have them every year), including the one that will give you the opportunity to replace Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli.

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