McAuliffe signs order protecting LGBT state workers

The new order goes beyond similar ones signed by McAuliffe’s predecessors.

On the day he was sworn in as Virginia’s 72nd governor, Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“My administration is committed to keeping Virginia open and welcoming to all who call our Commonwealth home,” said Governor McAuliffe. “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.”

It’s the not the first time an executive order from an incoming Virginia governor has drawn attention.

In 2006, Gov. Tim Kaine signed a similar executive order banning discrimination against gay state workers. Then Attorney General and future Governor Bob McDonnell wrote an advisory opinion lambasting the order on the grounds that Gov. Kaine exceeded his executive authority. McDonnell argued that since state legislators hadn’t approved a bill outlawing discriminatory practices against gay state workers, Kaine was unable to ensure protections with an executive order.1

After his inauguration in 2010, Bob McDonnell issued a similar order, one prohibiting discrimination “on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities,” noticeably removing the protections for gays established in the Kaine order.

McDonnell’s then chief of staff issued a memo meant to alleviate concerns that gays would be discriminated against. It read:

“It shall be the policy of the office of the Governor to ensure equal opportunity in the workplace, encourage excellence by rewarding achievement based on merit, and prohibit discrimination for any reason.

Gov. McAuliffe’s order goes beyond that of Gov. Kaine’s in that it adds discriminatory protections based on sexual identity and gender identity (i.e. transgender people).

Here is the text to Gov. McAuliffe’s order:


Importance of the Initiative

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. 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.

This policy specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities. The policy permits appropriate employment preferences for veterans and specifically prohibits discrimination against veterans.

State appointing authorities and other management principals are hereby directed to take affirmative measures, as determined by the Director of the Department of Human Resource Management, to emphasize the recruitment of qualified minorities, women, disabled persons, and older Virginians to serve at all levels of state government. This directive does not permit or require the lowering of bona fide job requirements, performance standards, or qualifications to give preference to any state employee or applicant for state employment.

Allegations of violations of this policy shall be brought to the attention of the Office of Equal Employment Services of the Department of Human Resource Management. No state appointing authority, other management principal, or supervisor shall take retaliatory actions against persons making such allegations.

Any state employee found in violation of this policy shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action.

The Secretary of Administration is directed to review and update annually state procurement, employment, and other relevant policies to ensure compliance with the non-discrimination mandate contained herein, and shall report to the Governor his or her findings together with such recommendations as he or she deems appropriate. The Director of the Department of Human Resource Management shall assist in this review.

This Executive Order supersedes and rescinds Executive Order No. 6 (2010), Equal Opportunity, issued by Governor Robert F. McDonnell on February 5, 2010.

Effective Date of the Executive Order

This Executive Order shall become effective upon its signing and shall remain in full force and effect until amended or rescinded by further executive order.

Given under my hand and under the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia this 11th day of January 2014.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. A 2009 case found that Kaine’s executive order protecting gays wasn’t enough to guarantee redress for a state worker allegedly fired for being gay. 

Photo by: Miller Center

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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