Saturday, February 25, 2006


The Governor of Virginia can't set his own employment policies?

The Attorney General of Virginia, Robert O'Donnell, at the instigation of obsessed homophobe Delegate Bob Marshall, issued an opinion that the Governor has no right to issue an order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment (Washington Blade Online, 24 February 2006) because the state constitution doesn't explicitly grant him the power to do so. Never mind that the Governor is the boss, and you'd think that, absent an explicit prohibition, the boss gets to make the rules. Anyway, Governor Mark Warner issued just such an order shortly before he left office (I'm of the opinion that he's a weasel*, and the fact that he waited till the eleventh hour to do this is one sign of that), and Governor Tim Kaine has affirmed it.

Article V, Section 10 of the Virginia Constitution states,

Except as may be otherwise provided in this Constitution, the Governor shall appoint each officer serving as the head of an administrative department or division of the executive branch of the government, subject to such confirmation as the General Assembly may prescribe. Each officer appointed by the Governor pursuant to this section shall have such professional qualifications as may be prescribed by law and shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

In other words, the Governor can fire any of his appointees for any reason. Can O'Donnell explain why such a reason might not be because an appointee isn't enforcing the Governor's directive not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation? The executive order can be read as amounting to, "Look, people, here's one of the rules I want you to follow with respect to your own staff if you don't want to find your butt out on the sidewalk." How does O'Donnell find this not to be within the scope of the Governor's power?

It doesn't really matter, because an opinion by the Attorney General doesn't amount to a hill of beans unless he chooses to go to court to have it enforced. To take it to court, he'd have to wait for a discrimination case to arise, and for the Governor to respond by quashing it, upon threat of the overseeing agency or department officer's job if necessary. At that point, a judge would probably find that the Governor's power to fire an officer, being prescribed as it is by the state constitution, superseded some bureaucrat's right to be unfair to a civil servant for unfair and arbitrary reasons. But in case you weren't aware of it, much of the legislative scurrying around in Richmond these days, particularly in regard to matters of sexual orientation, is vastly more characterized by ardent exhibitions of raw bigotry than by expressions of substance and thought.

* My first clue that Warner is a weasel came when Warner arrived at a barbecue I attended that was held by a GLBT political organization. This was a week after he'd announced his opposition to gay marriage, so some of us attending were already unimpressed with him. We ambushed him almost as soon as he arrived and challenged him on his statement. He went totally Quayle on us, completely astonished and stammering attempts at responses about practicalities, about the realities of political life in Virginia. When this appeared not to satisfy us, he whined through closed teeth, "Jeez guys, my sister's a lesbian!" We were so stunned by this. What was his point? At first it wasn't clear why he would be telling us that at all. Then it occurred to us that what he meant to say was, "Hey, don't you understand that I'm really on your side?" But what I got out of it was that he was such a weasel, even his own sibling's homosexuality wasn't enough impetus to stand up for what's fair and right. Yet that didn't stop him from invoking her as a shield. Unfortunately, by the time I'd thought this through and was going to call him on it, he'd slipped away, presumably to glad-hand with some of the less confrontational attendees.

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