Bob McDonnell is the d-bag governor of Virginia who was elected even after a 20-year-old, 93-page diatribe about how gay men (and women) were second-class citizens surfaced. Eventually, he disavowed his former remarks — but only about women, not The Gays. Which might explain why in February he issued an executive order stripping anti-discrimination protections for LGBT state workers, all part of his strategy to try to hide his bigotry until after the election. So it made sense that McDonnell’s new attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, would extend the governor’s pro-discrimination platform and instruct state schools to remove protections for queer employees. Except now McDonnell is … contradicting Cuccinelli’s own anti-gay positions?
On Monday, McDonnell was telling reporters he backed the legal reasoning of Cuccinelli (pictured above, left, next to McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling) in his decision to rescind protections for gay employees at Virginia’s state universities and colleges; he “supported the legal reasoning of Cuccinelli’s letter but stressed that he would allow neither colleges nor other state agencies to discriminate,” the Washington Post reported. Except in a new executive
order directive (PDF here), he’s completely reversing stride, amending his own original executive order and saying Cuccinelli’s stance is a farce. Says McDonnell’s new order:
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.
Consistent with state and federal law, and the Virginia and United States Constitutions, I hereby direct that the hiring, promotion, compensation, treatment, discipline, and termination of state employees shall be based on an individual’s job qualifications, merit and performance. No employee of the Executive Branch shall engage in any discriminatory conduct against another employee.
Moreover, McDonnell’s chief of staff is telling state colleges to follow his new position, and effectively ignore Cuccinelli’s remarks.
While the separation of powers doctrine precludes the Governor from changing the Virginia Human Rights Act via Executive Order, he wants to be clear that discrimination in state employment will not be tolerated. As the chief executive officer for the Commonwealth, the Governor wants to establish a clear standard of conduct ensuring that all cabinet members, agency heads, managers, supervisors and employees of the Executive Branch understand and enforce state and federal law prohibiting employment discrimination. Independent agencies and state supported colleges and universities should likewise adopt a similar standard of conduct.
This is a (less than remarkable) 180, and while McDonnell and Cuccinelli are reportedly not the closest of personal friends, they are political allies; they campaigned on the same Republican ticket. UPDATE: McDonnell’s new statement carries the force of “his office,” but not law, as it is an executive directive and not an executive order.
But his directive, he said, would give employees or potential hires a pretty powerful tool to use if they felt they had been the victim of discrimination: They could complain to human resources, and if their complaint was founded, they would know their discriminator would face disciplinary action, including reprimand or termination, at the direction of the governor.
And now, just weeks after assuming their new roles, they are involved in a public disagreement over an issue that really gets those social conservative voters all agog. Whether you want to credit the outrage exhibited on Virginia’s college campuses or the pressure applied by the media (naturally the liberals and weed smoking crowd are going to say Jon Stewart gets to take a victory lap), this is all going to be an unraveling worth studying — on how to get politicians to support LGBT discrimination protections.
Like, say, ENDA.