Senate approves protections for gay workers; House remains opposed
The Virginia Senate had adopted a bill to legally prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the state workforce on a tight 22 to 18, party-line vote.
The vote nearly mirrored the outcome when the state Senate voted on the same bill last year. It's death in the GOP-led House of Delegates is a near inevitably; a House subcommittee killed the same proposal Tuesday.
Democrats have rallied around the proposal, in part because it is designed to contest a move by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) last year to urge state colleges to remove language dealing with sexual orientation to their campus nondiscrimination policies last year. Cuccinelli said such language is not legal in Virginia, in the absence of a law passed by the General Assembly protecting gay workers.
"As you will recall, last year we had our children come up in support of this bill -- they marched up from Virginia Commonwealth University," said bill sponsor Sen. Don McEachin (D-Richmond) to his Senate colleagues Wednesday, referring to a protest march by college students held last year in response to Cuccinelli's action. "It was a very moving moment in the life of this bill. Surely we will be on the right side of history if we pass this legislation."
But Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) enacted an executive directive last year in response to Cuccinelli's letter to colleges, declaring that discrimination, including based on sexual orientation, violates state policy. He said an employee that discriminates could face disciplinary action. But critics noted that the directive held no legal weight and would not allow gay employees access to the court system.
None of those opposed rose to speak against it on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.
Rosalind S. Helderman
| February 2, 2011; 1:39 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Ken Cuccinelli, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate
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