Virginia’s governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, signed an executive order Thursday making it illegal for state employees, contractors and subcontractors to discriminate against anyone because of how they identify or who they love.
“Starting today, the commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said McAuliffe in a statement, as reported by the Washington Blade. “Virginia is home to the best state workforce in the country and this policy will ensure there is no question that all Virginians are to receive the full benefits of their citizenship, without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The order comes two days after a Republican lawmaker introduced a bill in Virginia House to regulate the use of public bathrooms by transgender people, and to out any student who identifies as transgender to all the parents of his or her classmates.
Legislators and LGBTQ advocacy organizations immediately condemned the bill, proposed by Delegate Robert Marshall. Equality Virginia called it “hateful and discriminatory” and a spokesperson for the governor promised an automatic veto in the unlikely event the so-called bathroom bill ever reached his desk.
A right-wing religious group, Virginia First Foundation, praised Marshall’s “Physical Privacy Act,” which the longtime conservative lawmaker said was fueled by the fear that men and boys will pretend to be transg to sneak into bathrooms and locker rooms used by women and girls.
“Some guys will use anything to make a move on some teenage girls or women,” Marshall said, as reported by the Washington Post. “Mere separation of the sexes should not be considered discrimination.”
But Virginia’s governor clearly has a very different perspective.
“Governor McAuliffe has been clear that he will veto any bill that restricts the rights of Virginians based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said his spokesperson, Brian Coy, in a written statement. “As we saw in North Carolina, these bills don’t just hamper civil rights — they kill jobs. The Governor is hopeful that Republicans in the General Assembly will drop these counterproductive bills and turn their focus toward building a stronger and more equal Virginia economy.”
As for McAuliffe’s executive order, James Parrish —Equality Virginia’s Executive Director — described it as “a huge leap forward in our goal toward becoming a state that is a safe, welcoming and equal place for all Virginians.”
“We are grateful for the continued leadership demonstrated by Gov. McAuliffe on gay and transgender issues.”
“This policy is simply good business practice — taxpayers should expect that their money will not be used to support organizations that discriminate.”