Yes! Virginia is for all lovers (and all employees and businesses)

Virginia is for loversTagline: North Carolina needs to take a few lessons from our neighbor Virginia. See also several additional pertinent links at the bottom of the article

As a diversity consultant and an out gay man in North Carolina, one state south of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I and others would often scoff at Virginia’s tourism slogan “Virginia is for Lovers.” Some of us would create amended signs that read “Virginia is for SOME Lovers” since Virginia was one of those Southern States that long had a state constitutional amendment outlawing same-gender couples.

But now, with the latest executive order on January 5th signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia has progressed into a shining star of equality and fair play for all its citizens. Now let me tell you this story and provide the additional details.

The past: Yes, Virginia was one of the southern states that quite early in the “marriage equality” movement prohibited the recognition of same-gender marriages. Of course that was completed voided by the June, 2015 Supreme Court ruling that provided for same gender marriage recognition and availability across all fifty states.

The present: But then early this year, Virginia surpassed her southern neighbors with Governor McAuliffe signing state executive order Number 61 on January 5th. It directs all Executive Branch entities to include in their procurement contracts valued over $10,000 a prohibition on discrimination by the contractor in its employment practices, subcontracting practices, and delivery of goods or services, on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status. Executive Branch entities must also require that the contractor will include the same nondiscrimination requirements in every subcontract, vendor contract, or state procurement contract.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

In signing this, his first executive order as a the new Governor, Mr. McAuliffe stated, “As my first act as Governor, I signed Executive Order 1 to ban discrimination in the state workforce based on sexual orientation, 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. 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.”

As a diversity and inclusion consultant with a very deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) diversity, I stand excited and ready to assist any company doing business with the commonwealth of Virginia with the consulting services and training to fully comply with the order as well as building the corporate culture to assure true execution.

The future: Being here in North Carolina, where last year our out-of-touch legislature passed our hateful and economically harmful state anti-LGBT legislation known as HB-2, I encourage our new governor Roy Cooper to follow suit with Virginia and issue our own similar order for our state’s executive branch contractors.
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Useful and interesting links:
The complete text of Virginia Executive Order 61

An interesting history of Virginia’s “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism slogan.

President Obama’s similar executive order for LGBT protections at the federal level.

My blog about the harmful impacts of North Carolina’s HB2.

An hour with EEOC Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows, Part 2 – LGBT Concerns

EEOC Commissioner Burrows discussed the successful case of transgender woman Tamara Lusardi vs the US Army (photo from

EEOC Commissioner Burrows discussed the successful case of transgender woman Tamara Lusardi vs the US Army (photo from

NOTE: See link to an important LGBT resource in the last paragraph!

Last week I was invited to attend a “Meet and Greet” with one of the USA’s five EEOC (Employment Equal Opportunity Commission) Commissioners, Charlotte A. Burrows, in the EEOC’s downtown Raleigh office. I received the invite since I am an officer of the Raleigh Business and Professional Network, Raleigh’s National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate chapter.

In Part 1 published earlier this week (link), I summarized how the meeting was structured and six high priority areas that the EEOC was working on shared by Ms. Burrows. Since I am a diversity consultant capable of handling all areas of diversity but with a deep expertise in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) workplace and marketplace, I will expand on that subject in this “part 2.”

The most important basic point raised by Ms. Burrows is that even though sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly delineated as a “protected classes” in Title VII (The Civil Rights Act of 1964), the EEOC is very open to pursuing complaints in these areas. At the Federal Level, there have been an increasing number of court cases where the ruling is that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is assumed within the “sex” area of Title VII.

Ms. Burrows then mentioned two specific cases in the sexual orientation and gender identity realms:

1) In the 7th District Court Case Warnether A. Muhammad vs. Caterpillar Inc., the court initially took the position that discrimination based on sexual orientation could not be used by the plaintiff suing using Title VII. But on appeal from the EEOC, though Muhammed lost his case on other grouds, the panel did reverse its position about the invalidity of using sexual orientation discrimination in cases like these.

2) In the case of Tamara Lusardi (a transgender woman) vs. the US Army, (link to Washington Blade article) the EEOC ruled that prohibiting Tamara from using the restroom identified with her gender constituted gender discrimination under the law.

Ms. Burrows strongly made the point that the EEOC is truly “open for business” to pursue discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and that over the past few years, over $3M in fines and settlements in these areas have been recorded. She further shared the statistic that in the LGBT area, about 80% of the cases coming to them are around sexual orientation and about 20% around gender identity.

During Q and A when I inquired about the dichotomy between the EEOC pursuing these cases in the light of no national ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that includes protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, she replied that a congressional passed ENDA law would certainly make this discussion much more “cut and dry” and send a very strong national message. However, even with the current absence of an EDNA, the EEOC will certainly still pursue LGBT discrimination cases.

As stated in part 1 of this blog, I am very grateful for the EEOC in fighting employment discrimination for ALL PEOPLE. And even in my own research I later found this very useful resource from the Chamber of Commerce to assist people in addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.