January 11, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Terry McAuliffe bans discrimination against LGBT state employees
Terry McAuliffe, Richmond, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Saturday signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT state employees. (Photo by Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

RICHMOND, Va.—Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Saturday signed an executive order that bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“By virtue of the authority vested in me as governor, I hereby declare that it is the firm and unwavering policy of the commonwealth of Virginia to assure equal opportunity in all facets of state government,” reads the directive McAuliffe signed shortly after he took office on the South Portico of the State Capitol. “The foundational tenet of this executive order is premised upon a steadfast commitment to foster a culture of inclusion, diversity and mutual respect for all Virginians.”

McAuliffe repeatedly promised during his campaign against then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that the first executive order he would sign as governor is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. Former Gov. Bob McDonnell did not issue such a mandate, but U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner as governor banned discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation.

Julian Walker of the Virginian-Pilot reported gender identity and expression for the first time was included in the anti-discrimination order.

“My administration is committed to keeping Virginia open and welcoming to all who call our commonwealth home,” said McAuliffe after signing the directive. “Executive Order Number 1 sets the tone for an administration that will not accept discrimination in any form, and one that will work tirelessly to ensure all Virginians have equal opportunity in the workplace, no matter their backgrounds, race, religion, or whom they love.”

McAuliffe on Saturday also signed an executive order that prohibits gifts of more than $100 to himself, his family, statewide officials and their families in response to the ethics scandal surrounding former Gov. Bob McDonnell over a Rolex watch and other items he, his wife and their children and other family members received from outgoing Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams. The directive also created an ethics commission to oversee the execution of the executive order.

The former Democratic National Committee chair supports marriage rights for same-sex couples.

His inauguration took place against the backdrop of two federal lawsuits challenging Virginia’s constitutional amendment that bans gay nuptials.

It remains unclear whether the former Democratic National Committee chair and Attorney General Mark Herring will defend the ban that Virginia voters approved in 2006 by a 57-43 percent margin.

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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