Monday, December 10, 2012

Is Virginia For Lovers?

I am a strong supporter of Virginia. I was born, raised, and educated here. Virginia is home to the capitol of Hokie Nation. We voted for Barack Obama twice. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner represent us in the Senate. It has absolutely beautiful scenery from the sea, to the fields, to the mountains. There are so many things about the Commonwealth to love.


Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA)
I really must take issue with this phrase: "Virginia is For Lovers." The problem with this slogan is that it fails to disclose that Virginia is not really for lovers, specifically the gay ones. When you take a look at the policies in place, the anti-gay animus becomes glaringly obvious.

Shortly after taking office in 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination by state agencies for a host of reasons, not including sexual orientation or gender identification. This rescinded a similar executive order made by his predecessor Governor Tim Kaine which did cover sexual orientation and gender identification. Governor McDonnell also signed a bill passed by the General Assembly allowing private adoption agencies to discriminate against potential parents for being gay under the guise of a "conscience clause." Only one other state (North Dakota) has such a law in effect.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA)
Even more anti-gay than Governor McDonnell is current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is currently campaigning to succeed McDonnell in the 2013 gubernatorial election. In 2010, Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia's public universities telling them to end policies that protected against anti-LGBT discrimination. Such a move, which besides increasing the likelihood of anti-LGBT discrimination with impunity, makes it less likely that a perfectly qualified LGBT professor, will take a faculty position in one of the Commonwealth's public universities, especially if this person has a long-term partner. In fact, in Virginia generally, there is no employment non-discrimination policy in place that protects the LGBT community. Employers across the nation have noted that anti-gay policies of various sorts, including and especially employment non-discrimination laws that fail to protect LGBT citizens, make it harder to attract good employees.

Then there is the marriage. In 2006, the citizens of the Commonwealth passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman. No marriage equality here. No civil-unions or domestic-partnerships either. Even if you are a same-sex couple married in a state that has marriage equality, that marriage will still not be recognized in Virginia‘s governmental institutions. This leads to a plethora of legal issues for same-sex couples here including health care coverage, medical decisions, inheritance, much more. The fact that same-sex couples have to file their taxes separately instead of filing jointly - like their heterosexual counterparts - constitutes a de facto “gay tax” here in the Commonwealth.

The ways in which the LGBT community are treated as second-class citizens in Virginia are disturbingly sweeping. The people, institutions, and government of the Commonwealth must do a significant turnaround on these important issues before Virginia can say it is truly for lovers.

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