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F.C. Chamber Board Votes 10-1 To Condemn Cuccinelli Action

By a 10-1 secret ballot vote with three abstentions, the Board of Directors of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce approved a formal resolution Tuesday “Affirming the Link Between Non-Discrimination Public Policy and Economic Development” at its monthly meeting.

According to the wording of the resolution, the Chamber board “voices its strong opposition to recent action by the Attorney General of Virginia Kenneth Cuccinelli to advise Virginia’s colleges and universities to remove protections against discrimination of lesbian and gay persons,” asserting that “Removing such protections will have adverse economic consequences for Virginians by undermining efforts at mitigating the impact of the current recession through energetic efforts at new economic development and the recruitment of major corporations to the state.”

The resolution adds, “We believe that many new and relocating businesses will choose to avoid Virginia because this posture on discrimination will have a profoundly chilling effect on prospective employees, contractors, vendors and customers.”

With its action Tuesday, the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce has become the only Chamber in Virginia to take a stand against Cuccinelli’s action on economic development grounds. The Falls Church Chamber was also the only Chamber in the commonwealth to take a similar stand, also on economic development grounds, against the Marshall-Newman Amendment barring same sex marriage in 2006.

In both cases, this week’s and the one in 2006, the Falls Church Chamber board’s action was initiated and advocated for by F.C. Chamber board member and past president Nicholas F. Benton, owner and editor of the Falls Church News-Press.

It noted that major corporations like Northrup-Grummun, which is currently deciding where to relocate its national headquarters in the Washington, D.C. region, have strong anti-discrimination policies of their own such that it’s thousands of mostly well-educated and skilled employees will be off-put by a state-mandated prejudice. They will either pressure their management to avoid locating its headquarters in the state, or they will make individual decisions not to have the state as their personal place of residence.

The vote Tuesday followed over a month of e-mail driven comment, input and proposed language revisions from the Chamber’s board membership. Responding to news of the Chamber’s vote Tuesday, the executive director of a major statewide equal rights organization in Richmond applauded the Falls Church Chamber for being “an important opinion maker” in Virginia.

For similar reasons, in a follow-on development Tuesday, former Chamber president Gary LaPorta initiated the Chamber board’s consideration of a similar resolution condemning Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for his omission of any reference to slavery in his recent proclamation to celebrate Confederate History Month in the state.

He said that incidents like that one, paralleling in many ways Cuccinelli’s action, have negative economic consequences for the state, especially in Northern Virginia’s high tech corridor upon which the state’s future economic development so sorely depends.

The Chamber board also initiated an expedited process to go formally on record against any cuts in the City of Falls Church’s Economic Development Office (EDO) budget in the current Fiscal Year 2011 budget. According to a recommendation of City Manager Wyatt Shields, the budget would eliminate the lone office support position from the two-person EDO staff. The City’s budget will be adopted on April 26.