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Yes, Virginia, Elections Do Have Consequences: Part 4

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 10:23:08 AM EST

It's been either "no-action" or "the wrong-action" since the GOPers took power in Richmond. First, Gov. Bob McDonnell begged for more time - with no criticism, please - for his not having budget amendments ready to cover his $2 billion refusal to go along with a tax increase in the budget submitted by former Gov. Tim Kaine.

Next, McDonnell has not issued an executive order barring discrimination in state hiring and workforce, breaking a 36-year practice by governors of both parties of making a formal statement on that issue one of their first acts in office.

McDonnell justified his inaction to the Washington Post by insisting that the executive order of Gov. Kaine is still in effect - minus the protection Kaine offered for sexual orientation. That contention makes no legal sense from a man who for four years was the state' top lawyer. How can all but one part of an executive order be said to be in effect? The "logic" escapes me.

Then, the Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, recommended the withdrawal of Gov. Tim Kaine's state policy change that would allow government employees to add same-sex partners and other dependent adults living in their households to their state health benefits.

Elaine in Roanoke :: Yes, Virginia, Elections Do Have Consequences: Part 4
Bob McDonnell dodged any charges that personal prejudice was behind his decision to halt Kaine's health insurance proposal by hiding behind AG Ken Cuccinelli. He told the Post that Virginians should not read anything into his decision except that he received advice from Cuccinelli indicating that the "proposed regulation suffers from numerous procedural and substantive defects."

Yes, it's been a bad couple of weeks for social moderates in the Commonwealth, and the next four years promise even worse to come. Below are further details of the latest Republican proof that Tim Kaine was more progressive than we progressives gave him credit for, and that elections do have serious consequences.  

As the Washington Post has noted, during the fall campaign McDonnell said that he felt Govs. Warner and Kaine did not have the executive authority to include sexual orientation as one form of discrimination barred by the state; however, as attorney general, he also stated that orders against discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex were constitutional.

I suppose his rationale for supporting the denial of equal rights to gay citizens is that so-called "Defense of Marriage" amendment that Republicans promoted and that too many Democrats - including Creigh Deeds - voted for, even though it has nothing to do with hiring. You know, I cannot think of another time when citizens of the Commonwealth used our state constitution to deny equal rights to a group of citizens.

Every governor since 1973 has issued a non-discrimination order. The first governor to issue one  was Linwood Holton, who in 1970 became the first Republican governor of Virginia after Reconstruction. Even George Allen issued such an order, albeit not adding gay citizens to groups protected from discrimination. It was Mark Warner who first took that step, and Tim Kaine followed.

Now, the first Republican governor in eight years seems determined to refuse to follow the  bipartisan tradition.

Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the General Assembly's only openly gay member, has said  that he actually would prefer to see no order rather than one that fails to mention sexual orientation. However, issuing no order at all is a serious departure from past practice in a state that had a long history of slavery, followed by racial segregation that lasted well into the 1970's.

Heck, it wasn't until 1970 that the General Assembly passed legislation making it illegal for banks  to refuse to give a credit card or loan to a married woman with her own income, insisting instead that the card or loan be in the name of her husband. How do I know that? From personal experience.

Democrats in the State Senate are supporting a bill by Democratic Sen. Donald McEachern that would ban discrimination in state jobs, including a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation. In other words McEachern is planning to put to the test McDonnell's contention that the General Assembly should legislate the issue of job discrimination.

McEachern has said that he hopes to have the governor's support for the bill. I wouldn't count on that. Plus, the bill is sure to fail in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

Refusing to issue a non-discrimination order evidently isn't enough to show the fear and loathing that this administration seems to have  regarding gay and lesbian Virginians. So, we also have that recommendation to McDonnell from Ken Cuccinelli that there are too many problems with  government employees adding same-sex partners or other dependent adults living in their households to their state health benefits.

The addition of those persons would not cost the state a penny because the health insurance premium for adding family members to the policy is fully paid by the employee.

Stuff like this was my greatest fear about the election of Bob McDonnell, not to mention Ken Cuccinelli. If these men have their way, local and state government managers and businesses with prejudices against various groups will be able to reject job applicants with impunity, so long as they cover their action by some other justification. There will be no legal recourse on the state level.

For the first time since 1973, the executive branch of state government will no longer be on record as requiring equality for all Virginians. At least, not for the next four years.

I'm not saying that Bob McDonnell is personally prejudiced. Actually, I don't believe that he is, although that 1989 thesis showed all of us that he used religion in the past to justify prejudice. However, inaction, looking the other way, not understanding that government must protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority, all have the same result as being prejudiced yourself.

To paraphrase Christ, "Inasmuch as you did not do these things for the least among you, you did not do them for me."  

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