Senate panel votes to add nondiscrimination to Northrop Grumman bill
A Senate committee voted this morning to add language to a bill (designed to help the state lure the headquarters of Fortune 100 company Northrop Grumman) that would write into law that Virginia "maintains an ecumenical atmosphere in its sexual orientation hiring policies in the private and public workforce."
But House Speaker Bill Howell (R) ruled a similar amendment out of order on the floor of the house chamber, effectively killing the idea in the House of Delegates.
The move is one of numerous efforts that have been made in recent days to get the legislature to extend legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation, in response to a letter sent by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to state colleges and universities last week asking them to rescind nondiscrimination policies that recognized sexual orientation in absence of approval for such policies from the General Assembly.
What does Northrop Grumman have to do with this?
The gay protections issue picked up steam when a Maryland state senator wrote a letter to the company urging it to choose Maryland for its headquarters instead of Virginia because, he said, his state was more welcoming to gay people than the Commonwealth. Northrop Grumman has been repeatedly recognized by the gay advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign for gay-friendly employment practices.
On a Facebook page organizing on-campus protests in response to Cuccinelli's letter, some students have been publicizing Northrop Grumman's e-mail address and encouraging students to e-mail the company to express their concerns.
The Senate has previously passed legislation that would recognize sexual orientation as a legally protected class, so passage of the amendment in that chamber is not a surprise. Del. Adam Ebbin (D), the legislature's only openly gay member, moved the amendment in the House but Howell ruled it out of order as not relating to the subject of the bill. The House has repeatedly declined to pass stand-alone legislation on the topic, including yesterday.
Northrop Grumman has been running a rather public competition between Virginia, Maryland and the District as it looks to relocate from California. The company has indicated that it will announce its choice in March or April.
With the passage of the amendment in the Senate, the economic development bills will emerge from the two chambers with different language, forcing the issue into conference. That means legislators from the House and Senate will have to resolve the language on sexual orientation before the adjournment of the session Saturday or the bill -- a priority of Gov. Bob McDonnell -- will die. If the Senate chooses to make a stand on the issue, they could force McDonnell to wade in.
March 10, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
Categories: House of Delegates , Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman , State Senate
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