Virginia Governor Signs Executive Order Protecting LGBT Contractors from Discrimination

By Adam Polaski • January 5, 2017 • 11:52 am

Great news today out of Virginia, where Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed an expanded LGBT-inclusive executive order prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in state contractors and subcontractors. Previously in Virginia, state employees were protected from employment discrimination, per McAuliffe’s 2014 executive order.

Governor McAuliffe, who last year vetoed an anti-LGBT bill and is a stalwart defender of LGBT equality, said today:

“Starting today, the commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 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.”

James Parrish, Executive Director of our friends at Equality Virginia, applauded the step forward today. He said:

“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.”

The executive order marks a significant step forward – and signals growing momentum across the country for comprehensive federal non-discrimination – but despite the step forward, in Virginia (and in nearly 30 other states), LGBT people have no state-wide non-discrimination protections.

Governor McAuliffe’s announcement follows a long history of executive orders from state governors extending non-discrimination protections to LGBT state employees and contractors, including most recently in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New York, Montana, and New Hampshire, as well as North Carolina, although Governor McCrory’s executive order in NC only came after months of backlash on the anti-LGBT law HB2, which remains in effect and makes the EO somewhat toothless.

These executive orders send a strong message that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender public employees should be treated fairly and equally – and they mark an important step forward in states without statewide non-discrimination protections. However, these orders do not carry the weight of the law, and their impact is limited to public employees – and moreover, they are limited to the tenure of the governor who took action. Two years ago, for example, Governor Brownback in Kansas allowed an LGBT-inclusive executive order to expire, and just a few weeks ago, a shameful decision from a judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive order in Louisiana.  Therefore, it is critical that state legislators in each of these states with LGBT non-discrimination executive orders codify these protections through state law.

Learn more about where non-discrimination laws stand in the states here.


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