Gov. McDonnell Rebuffs Attorney General, Issues New Directive Protecting LGBT From Discrimination

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) has issued a new directive distancing himself from Attorney General’s Ken Cuccinelli’s effort to strip LGBT protections from all state colleges and universities’ non discrimination policies.

The missive — which also updates the February 5th non-discriminatory policy — clarifies the “administration’s position on employment discrimination” and states that discrimination “based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation or parental status” will not be tolerated. Read the full directive here.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder is also reporting that in a separate letter accompanying the directive, McDonnell’s chief of staff specifically instructs “state supported colleges and universities” to follow the new directive “:

While the separation of powers doctrine precludes the Governor from changing the Virginia Human Rights Act via Executive Order, he wants to be clear that discrimination in state employment will not be tolerated. As the chief executive officer for the Commonwealth, the Governor wants to establish a clear standard of conduct ensuring that all cabinet members, agency heads, managers, supervisors and employees of the Executive Branch understand and enforce state and federal law prohibiting employment discrimination. Independent agencies and state supported colleges and universities should likewise adopt a similar standard of conduct.

McDonnell initially supported Cuccinelli’s legal reasoning, telling the Washington Post on Monday that “[t]here’s a long list of opinions. It’s all separation-of-powers issues,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that a governor can’t say to his managers, I will not tolerate discrimination in this administration.”


Public outrage over the Cuccinelli letter and impressive organizing campaigns on college campuses however, seemed to have pressured the politically ambitious McDonnell to issue the new, more inclusive, rules. The document is a big step froward for the Virginia government but still excludes gender identification from protection.


To be clear, the message McDonnell issued does not have the authority of an executive order.