Civil rights and businesses
Bob was for jobs, if you remember Gov. McDonnell’s campaign pitch when he was running for governor four years ago. These days, it seems he is more concerned with finding ways to pay his bills now that he will soon be without a job — get others to pay them for you, pawn the Rolex, maybe — but that’s fodder for another day.
Gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli are for jobs, too, or so they claim, and that’s why both of them and the General Assembly might give some serious consideration to revisiting a now seven-year-old amendment to the state constitution that enshrines marriage as between one man and one woman.
Granting full civil rights to same-sex spouses is simply the right thing to do, of course, but that doesn’t seem to be striking a responsive chord in Richmond. So we will suggest that it’s going to be more and more about jobs, in the hope that threats to the state’s prosperity may get things moving in the right direction.
Competition for businesses that want to be close to the nation’s capital is fierce, and Maryland has recognized same-sex marriage since 2012. It is also already legal in Washington, D.C., and, one state farther to the north, in Delaware.
Given the breathtaking change in acceptance of same-sex marriage that this entire country has undergone in the last decade, it is foolish — and economically foolhardy — to think that businesses aren’t going to scrutinize tolerance — or the perceived lack thereof — when they are considering where to relocate.
In May, Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates sent a clear message by rejecting the judicial nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, a gay Richmond prosecutor and former Navy fighter pilot. Within hours of that decision, Virginia found itself squarely in the middle of an embarrassing national debate about the civil rights of gay Americans.
That spotlight got even hotter last week when the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced that it wants to challenge in federal court Virginia’s 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
That’s certainly not the kind of baggage Fairfax County officials need to carry when discussing the merits of relocating to Tysons or Reston with an out-of-town CEO. Our state leaders would be wise to recognize that the wall calendar no longer reads 1957. A recent poll released by the Human Rights Campaign found that 55 percent of Virginians now support gay marriage — a 12-point increase from just five years ago. It’s also worth noting that the poll was a joint effort between Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic polling firm, and the Republican firm Target Point Consulting. This summer’s Supreme Court rulings on same-sex cases also altered the landscape.
We can only shoot ourselves in the foot so many times.
We know, of course, that our state-of-the-art transportation networks are a factor in our favor, but are our oh-so-easy commutes enough to counterbalance our oh-so-outdated attitudes?
Given that almost all the other factors are equal, are you going to relocate your business, with its dynamic and diverse employees, where they can thrive in their private lives just as they do in the workplace, or will you choose, instead, a state that makes no bones about it: Some of your employees are second-class citizens?