VA Gov. Bob McDonnell: I’m Not Making It Illegal, But You Shouldn’t Discriminate

After weeks of criticism over his explicit exclusion of LGBT people from an executive order banning discrimination against some groups, today Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a statement ordering state agencies not to discriminate against gays. The statement has no force of law and is effectively useless to any homosexual fired for being gay.

In a strongly worded edict, Gov. Bob McDonnell today instructed state agencies not to discriminate against gay and lesbian workers during the hiring process or in the workplace. His directive comes in the wake of a recent firestorm ignited after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote to Virginia college and university officials telling them they lack the legal authority to adopt employment policies with protection for gay workers. While McDonnell’s missive takes a strong stand on Virginia’s non-discrimination posture, it doesn’t carry the weight of law, as an executive order does.

His Democratic predecessors, former Govs. Mark Warner and Timothy M. Kaine, both included sexual orientation as a protected category in their anti-discrimination executive orders. McDonnell has said it is up to the General Assembly to change state law; he and then- Gov. Kaine clashed over that point in 2006 when McDonnell was the new attorney general. Efforts to add sexual orientation protections to state law have been rejected by the Republican-controlled House this year. McDonnell’s directive is a firm reiteration of what the governor previously has said: He does not support workplace discrimination and hires people based on merit. Per the directive, that policy now is extended to all wings of Virginia government. “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,” the McDonnell directive reads. “No employee of the Executive branch shall engage in any discriminatory conduct against another employee.”

Hurray? No. Window dressing. Damage control. Bullshit.