By a unanimous 7-0 vote Monday night, the Falls Church City Council passed a resolution strongly rebuking Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s recent ruling calling for state colleges and universities to remove lesbians and gays as a class from protections against discrimination.
The Falls Church Council’s “Resolution in Support of Diversity” noted that the Council “was deeply troubled” by the March 4 Cuccinelli opinion, affirming that “discrimination will not be tolerated in any form” in Falls Church, and calls on Cuccinelli to rescind his opinion.
In the same resolution, the Council defies the basis for Cuccinelli’s opinion — that is, that since state law does not explicitly allow for protecting lesbians and gays that no jurisdiction within the state can allow it — by stating, “It is the policy of the City of Falls Church to welcome people to the City — residents, businesses and employees — regardless of their race, color, religion or lack thereof, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital status or disability.”
Finally, the resolution “applauds Governor McDonnell’s subsequent issuance of a directive that he would not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation,” encouraging him to “adopt a formal, legally-binding executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, like his predecessors, Governor Warner and Governor Kaine,” and “encourages the General Assembly to amend the Virginia Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as a protected class.”
Responding to the equally strong sentiment expressed by all members of the Falls Church School Board last week, the Council determined to forward its resolution to the School Board, in hopes it can be adopted there and become a joint statement.
The Falls Church Council crafted the resolution in response to a request by one of its members, openly-gay Councilman Lawrence Webb, and a petition by the openly-gay owner of the Falls Church News-Press, Nicholas F. Benton, at its previous meeting.
The City of Falls Church has over the past decade formally included language extending anti-discrimination protection to persons “regardless of sexual orientation” in two locations, its guidelines for hiring and maintenance of City employees and in a more general anti-discrimination statement.
In a related development, the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors has slated a vote at its next business meeting expressing a similar sentiment, with a focus on the chilling effect on bringing new business to Virginia, of Cucinnelli’s position.
Meanwhile, Cuccinelli continues to defend his position, even in light of Gov. McDonnell’s directive. McDonnell’s order, according to Richmond insiders, came in direct reaction to fears that Cuccinelli’s ruling would kill any chance that the giant Northrup-Grumman aerospace firm would relocate from California to Virginia. The company, which is shopping around for the best location in the Washington, D.C. Metro region to relocate its headquarters, and bring in thousands of employees, has very progressive anti-discrimination internal management policies.
However, in a meeting of the Stonewall Gay and Lesbian Democratic caucus in Richmond last Saturday, State Sen. Donald McEachin said that the arch-conservative Republican majority that runs the State House of Delegates “doesn’t care what corporate America thinks.”
He said that when legislation to extend anti-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation, in the form of Senate Bill 66 that passed the state senate, came to the House and was killed by the Republican majority in sub-committee vote, it was the signal for Cuccinelli to lob his directive against state colleges and universities.
“He was waiting for that to happen first,” McEachin said, noting that Cuccinellli’s ruling was in violation of the state code, which mandates that colleges and universities are free to govern themselves on such matters.
Referring to the mass rallies and demonstrations that were spontaneously organized on college campuses in the state to protest Cuccinelli’s stand, McKeachen, an ordained minister, said, “It has been heartening to see that our children are determined not to have any more discrimination in their lifetimes.”