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McAuliffe signs anti-LGBT discrimination executive order

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Jan. 5, 2017, signed an executive order that bans anti-LGBT discrimination among state employees and contractors. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday signed an executive order that bans anti-LGBT discrimination among state employees, contractors and subcontractors.

“Starting today, the commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” said McAuliffe in a statement. “Virginia is home to the best state workforce in the country and this policy will ensure there is no question that all Virginians are to receive the full benefits of their citizenship, without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish described the executive order as “a huge leap forward in our goal toward becoming a state that is a safe, welcoming and equal place for all Virginians.”

“We are grateful for the continued leadership demonstrated by Gov. McAuliffe on gay and transgender issues,” he said.

“This policy is simply good business practice — taxpayers should expect that their money will not be used to support organizations that discriminate,” added Parrish.

Justin Nelson, president and co-founder of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, also applauded McAuliffe.

“To prohibit discrimination against LGBT business owners in contracting is a bold step,” said Nelson.

The first executive order that McAuliffe issued upon taking office in 2014 banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Gay and lesbian couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2014 declined to consider same-sex marriage lawsuits from the commonwealth and other states.

McAuliffe subsequently extended adoption rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. He and Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam have also urged businesses and sporting events that have pulled out of North Carolina over its controversial House Bill 2 to consider relocating to the state.

Parrish noted 89 percent of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. have implemented LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies. He added all but one of the 18 Fortune 500 companies that are based in Virginia have these protections in place.

“This executive order goes a long way towards keeping Virginia competitive to businesses and aligns the commonwealth’s practices with those of most Fortune 500 companies,” said Parrish.

Virginia’s statewide anti-discrimination law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity.

State Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would prevent people from entering restrooms or other facilities “designated for use by members of the opposite sex.” The controversial measure, which is known as the Physical Privacy Act, would also require public school principals to notify a parent or guardian within 24 hours if their child “requests to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronoun inconsistent with the child’s sex, or to use a restroom or other facility designated for the opposite sex.”

McAuliffe said he would veto Marshall’s bill if it were to reach his desk.