Mayor Dwight Jones signed an executive directive April 15 banning employment discrimination by city employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That makes the city of Richmond the seventh locality in Virginia to do so.
A standing ovation greeted Jones' announcement Saturday night at Equality Virginia's Commonwealth Dinner. "Tonight, I'm going to do something that I had promised to do upon election," he said, "but I did not have an opportunity to do."
Jones promised "zero tolerance," and said that any city worker or manager "found discriminating against any person for any reason" would be punished with disciplinary action or termination.
"For Virginia to be a first-tier state, for Richmond to be a first-tier city, it's absolutely essential that workplaces be considered fair and inclusive," says Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, a Richmond-based lobbyist and lawyer for Equality Virginia. The group has been trying to get the General Assembly to pass anti-discrimination legislation for all state and local employees since 2006, she says. The next frontier for Equality Virginia is securing benefits for state and local employees' domestic partners; state law prevents this.
Last year Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli ruled that Virginia's public colleges could not ban discrimination against gays. Also last year, Gov. Bob McDonnell removed language protecting gay and lesbian state employees from discrimination; but he then issued an executive directive instructing state agencies not to engage in employment discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation.