House Rejects Workplace Protections for State Workers
~ SB66 would have ensured personnel decisions are made on merit and ability ~
RICHMOND—A Republican-controlled sub-committee of the House of Delegates today rejected legislation that would have barred discrimination in Virginia government. Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) sponsored SB66 which would have prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, and sexual orientation among other characteristics. Protections against discrimination are traditionally enacted through executive order, but Governor Bob McDonnell’s nondiscrimination executive order does not protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill was defeated on a party line vote by the Republican-controlled Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process subcommittee.
“I’m disappointed with the House’s actions but I can’t say I’m surprised,” said Senator McEachin. “If we are going to be an inclusive society and a society that does not discriminate then we should have passed this bill to protect our state workers. It is far past time we ensure our personnel decisions are made on ability and not personal characteristics.”
This bill was identical to the nondiscrimination executive order issued by Governor Timothy M. Kaine in 2006. It would have applied only to the government of Virginia and would not have affected localities or private businesses. Many private businesses already ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Senator McEachin introduced the bill after Governor Bob McDonnell said it was the job of the legislature, not the Governor, to identify classes of workers for protection. SB66 passed the Senate 23-17 with the support of all Democrats and one Republican.
At today’s hearing, the Governor’s Office said they had no position on the bill. Testifying in support of the bill were the Virginia Governmental Employees Association, Virginia Education Association, Log Cabin Republicans, American Civil Liberties Union, Virginia Organizing Project, Equality Virginia and the Virginia Conference of the American Association of University Professors. The only subcommittee votes in support protections for state workers came from Democratic Delegates Luke Torian, Betsy Carr, and Jeion Ward.
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