Under fire for several moves that have angered LGBT Virginians, Gov. Bob McDonnell sought to quiet critics today with a strongly worded “executive directive” that forbids state agencies from discriminating in hiring and treatment of public employees, and singling out sexual orientation as irrelevant to one’s qualifications for employment. The edict does not, however, have the weight of law. It reads, in part:
Employment discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated by this Administration. The Virginia Human Rights Act recognizes the unlawfulness of conduct that violates any Virginia or federal statute or regulation governing discrimination against certain enumerated classes of persons. The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits discrimination without a rational basis against any class of persons. Discrimination based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, discrimination against enumerated classes of persons set forth in the Virginia Human Rights Act or discrimination against any class of persons without a rational basis is prohibited.
Democrats in the Virginia legislature have tried repeatedly to enact a state law that forbids discrimination in state hiring based on sexual orientation, but the Republican-controlled House of Delegates has blocked the measure each time.
Virginia college students are particularly upset over a recent opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that advised the state’s public colleges and universities to drop LGBT protections from their staff policies.