Virginia House votes against consideration of gay protections bill
A Northern Virginia delegate unsuccessfully tried a parliamentary maneuver Tuesday to force a floor vote on a measure that would ban discrimination in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation. The House has repeatedly rejected such legislation and voted against floor consideration of the bill 55 to 42.
Del. Ken Plum, a Democrat from Reston, moved to revive the gay-rights bill that had languished in a House subcommittee, saying the legislature must respond to Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's recent advice to the state's public colleges and universities that they had no legal ability to add sexual orientation to their nondiscrimination policies. Cuccinelli has recommended that such statements be rescinded.
"It's particularly timely at this time because the eyes of the nation are upon us," Plum said.
Del. David Englin (D-Alexandria) also rose to address the House, recalling his parents and grandparents' stories of anti-Semitic discrimination by employers. Englin said the state must act to protect Virginia's reputation as a desirable place to do business because some companies might see the state as intolerant.
"Let there be no mistake - Ken Cuccinelli wants to hang a sign in front of the public colleges and universities of this Commonwealth that reads 'Gays need not apply,'" Englin said.
But Del. Robert Marshall, (R-Prince William) argued that gay people needed no "special protections" and said that the term "sexual orientation" was so broad that it would protect behaviors that could not be discussed in public.
Marshall's motion passed, 53 to 42, burying the gay rights measure.
The bill Plum attempted to revive was SB66, sponsored by Sen. Donald McEachin. It was tabled in the House Committee on General Laws.
The bill defines "sexual orientation" as "a person's actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression" and expressly excludes any attraction toward persons with whom sexual conduct would be illegal due to age of the people involved.
Cuccinelli has written to state colleges and universities that they lack the authority to enact policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Richmond Times Dispatch reports today that 250 people attended the first of four forums sponsored by the administration at Virginia Commonwealth University this morning to discuss the issue.
Fredrick Kunkle and Rosalind S. Helderman
March 9, 2010; 1:59 PM ET
Categories: Fredrick Kunkle , Ken Cuccinelli
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