January 14, 2015 at 8:15 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
McAuliffe: 2014 ‘a great year for equality’ in Va.

Terry McAuliffe, Richmond, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

The first executive order that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued upon taking office last January banned anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. (Photo by Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe during his annual State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday described 2014 as a “great year for equality” for gay Virginians.

He noted nuptials for gays and lesbians became legal in Virginia last October after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case that challenged the constitutionality of the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Renee Bradley and Katherine Bradley-Black, a lesbian couple from Northern Virginia whose wedding McAuliffe officiated after gay nuptials became legal in the commonwealth, were among those the governor invited to attend the speech.

“Decisions about marriage are now left to loving adults instead of their government,” said McAuliffe.

McAuliffe also made broad references to LGBT-specific measures before lawmakers during the 2015 General Assembly that begin on Wednesday. These include bills that seek to formally repeal the marriage amendment and ban anti-LGBT discrimination against employees in state and local governments and in housing.

“We can send a message to the more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies that protect employees from discrimination, that Virginia is a place where equality and prosperity come before outdated culture battles,” said McAuliffe.

McAuliffe also highlighted his executive order that mandated state agencies to comply with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban once the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept it. He subsequently announced gay couples are able to adopt in the commonwealth.

“I was honored to take executive actions bringing Virginia government into line with the decision, including allowing same-sex couples to provide a loving, adoptive home for a child who needs it,” said McAuliffe.

Governor accused of ‘iron-fisted intolerance’

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, welcomed McAuliffe’s comments.

“Gov. McAuliffe has a strong record in supporting LGBT equality, and Equality Virginia is pleased that he continues to prioritize making Virginia a fair and welcoming place for LGBT individuals and families call home,” Parrish told the Washington Blade in a statement.

Parrish acknowledged opposition to efforts to repeal the marriage amendment and to advance other LGBT-specific issues in the General Assembly remains significant, especially in the House of Delegates.

Equality Virginia is among the groups that have sharply criticized state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County)’s bill that would allow state licensed or accredited business owners to deny service to someone based on their religious beliefs.

McAuliffe on Monday said he would veto the so-called “conscience clause” measure “in a nanosecond.”

“McAuliffe’s iron-fisted intolerance is a police state tactic,” Marshall told the Blade in response to McAuliffe’s threat.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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