Friday, February 18, 2011

VA House Panel Kills Employment Protection for Gay State Workers

The state seal of Virginia. A bill that would have granted employment protection to gay and lesbian state workers died in a Republican-lead Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee this week after GOP leaders decided there was no evidence of employment discrimination against state workers based on sexual orientation. The Washington Post reports:
The same GOP-led panel killed similar legislation last year. Democrats had pushed the bill hard this year, in part in response to a letter that Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) delivered to colleges and universities last year instructing them that, in the absence of a decision by the General Assembly to write protections for gays into law, they could not include language dealing with sexual orientation in their campus non-discrimination policies.

After Cuccinelli's letter sparked a firestorm, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) issued an executive directive outlining that the state does not discriminate, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, and that employees who violate the policy can be disciplined.

Opponents of the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Don McEachin (D-Richmond), argue that there is little evidence gay state workers face discrimination and that the governor's executive directive provides sufficient protections. Proponents note that without a change in law, employees cannot sue if they have faced discrimination.

"I can't pretend it's a surprise," McEachin said of the vote. "It's still a disappointment."

The same subcommittee also killed a bill that would have allowed public colleges and universities to offer employees the ability to extend their health coverage to their unmarried partners, including gay partners.
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