RICHMOND, Va. — The Democratic governor of Virginia has signed an executive order requiring the state to only enter into government contracts with businesses and organizations that have anti-discrimination policies in place protecting homosexual and transgenders in “its employment practices, subcontracting practices, and delivery of goods or services.”
Some believe the order effectively bans Christian entities and faith-based charities from working with the state, since they do not enact such policies out of their conviction that they retain the religious right to decline orders for “gay weddings” and similar celebrations, as well as to hire and fire in accordance with the religious values of the company or non-profit organization.
“It is hereby ordered as the policy of the Executive Branch that it will only contract with those who abide by the non-discrimination policies set forward in Executive Order 1 (2014), namely that discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status is prohibited,” Executive Order 61, signed by Terry McAuliffe on Jan. 5, reads in part.
The introduction to the order outlines that McAuliffe’s intent is to build a “new Virginia economy—an economy that embraces the diverse world in which we live.”
“Companies with whom Virginia does business, including those critical for building a new Virginia economy with high-paying jobs, have increasingly implemented their own policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The global economy in which Virginia must compete demands a dynamic workforce that is competitive, diverse, and educated,” it reads, also noting that federal policies use similar language.
Read the order in full here.
McAuliffe said in a statement upon the issuance of the order that he believes the move will “take divisive social issue battles off the table and help build an open and welcoming economy.”
“Starting today, the Commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” he outlined. “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.”
But others found McAuliffe’s order discriminatory in itself, that it discriminates against people of faith because their religion affects how they operate their business or non-profit organization—whether it be in employment decisions or refusal to participate in same-sex events.
Faith-based charities and religious business owners do not commonly enact the policies required by McAuliffe as they reserve the right to accept or refuse orders as per their convictions, and hire and fire in accordance with their organization’s values.
“Virginia has historically been a leader in the fight for religious liberty. Thomas Jefferson authored the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that served as the basis for the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights,” House Speaker William Howell, R-Spotsylvania, outlined.
“That is why it is unfortunate that Governor McAuliffe wants to harm religious liberty by discriminating against individuals, businesses, and faith-based charities that provide critical services to the Commonwealth and its citizens,” he said. “Instead of focusing on improving Virginia’s declining economic climate, the governor is choosing to focus on divisive issues that play to his base.”
The Family Foundation of Virginia issued similar remarks.
“Virginians should be appalled by this act of blatant religious bigotry,” said President Victoria Cobb. “As Virginia continues to slide further down on the list of states in which it’s best to do business, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General have no real solutions other than pandering to their base.”
“This unconstitutional act of intimidation and bullying of businesses and charities that are operated by people of faith, from Christians to Jews to Muslims, is not only unnecessary but dangerous,” she stated. “It is also in direct violation of the Virginia Constitution that states, ‘… the right to be free from any governmental discrimination upon the basis of religious conviction … shall not be abridged.’”
Lawmakers are already considering passing a bill that would annul McAuliffe’s order. Del. Robert Marshall, R-Prince William, has filed H.B. 1667, which prohibits the state from making an entity’s policies on sexuality a condition for a contractual agreement.
Marshall said in a statement that the bill is meant to “to prevent McAuliffe from imposing his new and unauthorized sexual conditions for state contracts.” He noted that a number of businesses throughout the nation have been punished because their policies do not allow them to participate in same-sex celebrations by providing goods or services for those events.
“Make no mistake: Neither Governor McAuliffe nor the LGBTQ advocates who want to destroy the livelihood of photographers, caterers, bakers, florists, musicians and others who refuse to ‘celebrate’ same-sex ‘marriage’ will be satisfied with merely symbolic victories,” Marshall opined.
As previously reported, bakeries in Oregon and Colorado, a photographer in New Mexico, a bed and breakfast in Illinois and a farm in New York have all been fined for declining to participate in same-sex events due to their religious beliefs and corresponding policies.
Marshall also said that McAuliffe’s order, which he noted “requir[es] every company that contracts over $10,000 in business with Virginia to include special protections for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals,” raises a number of questions.
“Since sexual orientation and gender identity are internalized subjective perceptions, how can a business possibly know these facets of a prospective employee’s life without asking?” he inquired. “Will Virginia’s government and businesses now be required to determine and disclose every employee’s sexual identity and behavior?”
“The governor should refrain from imposing new categories for special employment protections based on sexual behaviors and get back to promoting all businesses, period,” Marshall stated. “A business owner or state contractor should be free to hire and fire employees based on their performance, not their sexual behavior or orientation, without fearing denial or loss of a state contract.”