Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Va. Senate Passes Employment Protections for Gay State Workers

From the Virginian-Pilot: On a near party-line vote, Virginia's state Senate passed a measure Monday that would protect gay and lesbian state workers from discrimination.

Suffolk Republican Frederick Quayle broke ranks with the GOP and joined the 22 Democrats in the chamber in supporting the bill. "I just thought it was the right thing to do," he said later.

If passed into law, the measure would define a state non discrimination employment policy that includes the category of "sexual orientation" along with race, religion, gender and disabilities, among other classifications.

Several past governors have signed executive orders establishing that as a state policy; former Govs. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark Warner included the sexual orientation clause in their orders.

Current Gov. Bob McDonnell clashed with Kaine four years ago over the inclusion of gay workers in the policy, saying such decisions were the domain of the legislature.

McDonnell has not issued his own non discrimination order but recently said he considers Kaine's policy still in effect other than the sexual orientation piece.

During a floor debate, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, said the proposed policy would go beyond simply safeguarding against employment discrimination that is currently Virginia's de facto policy. It would open the door to litigation and grievances over "perceived slights," Obenshain added.

Speaking in support was Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, who predicted that lawmakers who vote against the measure will later regret it. Saslaw, D-Fairfax County, likened evolving attitudes about gay rights to the gradual change in official policies on race.

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