November 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
McAuliffe pledges to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees

June Crenshaw, Ashley King, gay news, Washington Blade, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Virginia, Democratic Party, Terry McAuliffe

LGBT rights advocates cheered at the Democratic Party of Virginia’s post-election party in Tysons Corner, Va., on Nov. 5, 2013.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday said his first executive order will be to ban discrimination against LGBT state employees.

The former chair of the Democratic National Committee made the comments during a Richmond press conference at which he announced members of his transition team that state Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) will chair. McAuliffe in April expressed support for such an executive order during a speech he gave at Equality Virginia’s annual dinner in Richmond.

“I will make sure that every single individual in the commonwealth of Virginia is treated fair and equal,” McAuliffe said at the time.

McAuliffe also highlighted his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples during the Richmond press conference.

“We elected a governor for all of Virginia,” McClellan said.

McAuliffe on Tuesday narrowly defeated Ken Cuccinelli in the state’s contentious gubernatorial campaign.

State Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) easily beat E.W. Jackson in the lieutenant gubernatorial race. The attorney general contest between state Sens. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun County) and Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) remains too close to call.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish earlier on Wednesday categorized McAuliffe and Northam’s election as “a real turning point” for the state.

“The commonwealth has never before had somebody in the governor’s seat who so openly supports equality for all Virginians,” Parrish said. “Equality Virginia is excited to work with these leaders toward a state that is more welcoming for all families.”

Parrish conceded, however, progress on LGBT-specific issues will remain a challenge because a number of anti-gay incumbents won re-election. These include state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) who co-sponsored the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2006.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s nomination to the bench after Marshall claimed the then-Richmond prosecutor misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s. The state Senate earlier this year approved Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

“Unfortunately, the newly elected House of Delegates will continue to be a major road block to achieving equality in Virginia,” Parrish said.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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