Mar 1, 2010

Make Virginia a Better Place to do Business

Sean Holihan
President, Virginia Young Democrats
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As many of us are aware, Virginia has not been among the friendliest states for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community. With Governor Robert McDonnell and Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli at the helm of Virginia’s government, along with a conservative House of Delegates, Virginia has chosen to stay behind as our sister states have advanced equality among all of its citizens.

Since his Inauguration, Governor McDonnell has refused to follow former Governors Kaine and Warner by being inclusive in his non-discrimination Executive Order. Even worse, Attorney General Cuccinelli has implied that he will not tolerate known homosexuals in his office.

For years, many of us have said that full inclusion at work can only lead to a more productive and attractive workplace. In fact, according to Richard Florida’s acclaimed book, “Rise of the Creative Class,” studies have shown that an area’s number of coupled gay people in a region is a strong predictor of an area’s high-tech industry growth and concentration.

Currently, Fortune 500 Company Northrop Grumman is looking to relocate its headquarters to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area from Southern California. The planned move was announced in January and has started an intense bidding war for the nearly 300 high-salary jobs between Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. A defense giant that is already one of the largest employers in Virginia, Northrop Grumman has maintained a perfect score with the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for four consecutive years.

Unfortunately, it is not just Virginians that have taken notice of our state’s archaic policy towards equality. Recently, a Maryland State Senator sent a letter to Northrop Grumman’s CEO, citing the lack of a LGBT non-discrimination policy for Virginia’s government employees as a reason against moving to Virginia and that a move to Maryland would be more in-line with Northrop Grumman’s policy towards equality.

If Virginia wants to hold its title as, “The Best Place to Do Business,” we need to step into the 21st Century along with Maryland and Washington, D.C. At the very least, Virginia needs to grant members of the LGBT community safety in the government workplace.

Senator Donald McEachin’s Senate Bill 66 is up for a vote on Tuesday, March 2nd. This bill would prohibit discrimination in employment based upon sexual orientation. In this economy, with Virginian’s pleading for work, we cannot let archaic policy to stand in the way of a Fortune 500 Company relocating to our Commonwealth.

Please, encourage Governor McDonnell to do the right thing and make Virginia’s government an inclusive workplace. Email your Delegate and encourage them to pass Senate Bill 66. We must move Virginia onto the same playing field as Maryland.

We simply cannot afford not to.

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Sean Holihan is the President of the Virginia Young Democrats.