Obenshain Opposes McEachin’s Anti-Discrimination Bill

Brent Finnegan -- February 8th, 2010

Sen. Mark Obenshain voiced opposition to a bill that would prohibit discrimination (in public employment) on the basis of sexual orientation. The state senate passed the bill today. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:

Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, objected to the bill saying that the language in the legislation went far beyond prohibiting discrimination for sexual orientation to include “gender identity and expression.”

Obenshain said the legislation would open up “an avenue for filing litigation and further grievances that does not exist under current law.”

From the bill summary:

Prohibits discrimination in public employment based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended. The bill defines “sexual orientation” as a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression. The bill expressly provides that “sexual orientation” shall not include any person’s attraction toward persons with whom sexual conduct would be illegal due to the age of the parties.

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21 Responses to “Obenshain Opposes McEachin’s Anti-Discrimination Bill”

  1. Jamie Smith says:

    I agree with Mark. The proposal is much too broad. Our litigious society and our over-grieving workers don’t need more laws like this one.

  2. Dan says:


    How would you change the bill in order to avoid opening the door to over-litigation. Should there be legal protections for gay and lesbian workers?

    I’m interested in hearing what specifically is wrong with the bill. I suspect that Sen. Obenshain probably wouldn’t support any bill that is intended to make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal. Maybe I’m wrong.

  3. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    The unusual definition of sexual orientation to include (potentially) polygamy, necrophilia, or even bestiality seems like a solution in search of a problem. I agree the language is too broad, and it would likely lead to lawsuits. Fortunately for already-struggling state coffers, this will never pass the House of Delegates when it crosses over for their approval. I have to say that when Sen. Obenshain isn’t grandstanding or shilling for his party (which occasionally happens), he can be very pragmatic and sensible.

  4. This is where we find ourselves. Once we have begun to allow government to decide who private companies or individuals can hire, promote, or fire, there is no limit to the variants of our citizens who will petition for specially protected status.

    As our current body of employment laws now stand, the only citizens who have yet to achieve some form of specially protected status are transsexuals and White Men!

    This bill would have left only White Men as having no special protections. Is there any question why the latest round of layoffs have hit White Men the hardest? It is because White Men can be fired with minimal risk of legal recourse directed at the corporation.

    We need to get government out of our businesses, especially with regard to personnel matters. Back when I lived in Baltimore, my most reliable supplier was an outfit run entirely by Hassidic Jews. I don’t care if a company hires only Asians, or all transsexuals, as long as they deliver the goods and services that they promise, for the quoted price. All the rest is none of anyone’s business, especially our big brother government.

    We need a revolution to get our government back to within its Constitutional limits.

  5. Please note the bill is exclusively about employment with the state government.

  6. Dan says:

    What Jeremy said. But thanks for sticking up for the long-oppressed white man.

  7. MB Green says:

    I believe trans-gendered persons would be covered under the term “gender expression and identity.” Basically, the bill doesn’t cover pedophiles (thank God). So, what about the necros and the polygamists, or the guy whose attracted to his cow? What about those people?

  8. It strikes me that in principle here white men are covered as well. The language refers to gender and race, and while in practice we have not seen white men have much luck in the courts in such cases I do not see that anything in this law says they are not covered. There is an established set of precedents regarding how one establishes discrimination. So, if one had a state agency that could be shown to be systematically (rather than maybe just in one or two cases) hiring less qualified women or non-white males over clearly better qualified white males, it looks to me that the law would allow for a suit.

    Arguments about “where do we stop?” well, we have had laws banning discrimination based on most of these items on the books for decades. The only new part here is the gender identity and gay stuff, not pedophilia or bestiality or some other oddities. Maybe there is some wording not in the summary that justifies Obenshain’s concerns about lots of frivolous lawsuits due to this (hordes of litigious necrophiliacs and fundamentalist Mormons!), but I fail to see it. If there is vagueness of wording, it strikes me that people who are not out to kowtow to those who are simply homophobic on whatever grounds (and are not themselves simply homophobic) would be willing to make whatever adjustments might be needed in wording to pin it down.

  9. If you click on the word “bill” in the article and then go to “full text”, you will see that the proposed revision includes this section: “For the purposes of this section, ‘sexual orientation’ means a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression [Emphasis mine]. Sexual orientation shall not include any person’s attraction toward persons with whom sexual conduct would be illegal due to the age of the parties.”

  10. Jeremy,

    It would look like the phrase you highlight as the source of the problem allows transsexuals. What is the problem with that? Pedophilia is ruled out and presumably the illegal bigamists of the Mormon fundamentalists are ruled out. Do you think this opens the door to hordes of litigious bestialists and necrophiliacs? Just what is the fear here? I do not see this phrase as any serious threat to “state coffers.” This is a joke, to the extent that it is not just a cover for a bunch of religiously based bigots (and remember that the Bible used to be used for racism, “Curse of Ham” and all that).

  11. Lowell Fulk says:

    I wonder what excess in the budget Senator Obenshain has found to eliminate? It’s kind of important to bring it into balance…
    Finding some money for transportation seems rather important as well. Maybe luring companies to the Valley to provide employment seems like a consideration.

    Barkley and I are homeboys on this issue.

  12. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Barkley, you’re right. “Gender identity and expression” is more narrowly defined than I expected. The risk of lawsuits from polygamists and paraphiliacs is lower than I had thought. And you’re right about that terminology being used to fight a different battle than is claimed.

    However, I will say that it looks like the lines between the paraphilias (like necrophilia and zoophilia, or bestiality) and sexual orientation have shifted over time and may yet shift again. Homosexuality was once included in the list of paraphilias in the DSM. It may happen that over time other things now classified as mental disorders may be reassigned as new types of “sexual orientation”. However, the law proposed above seems to cover that by limiting sexual orientations to heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual.

    I wonder, though, could someone who is fired for accessing pornography claim it was simply an expression of their sexual orientation?

  13. Jeremy,

    Well, I have not dug through the bill, but I am not aware of it using this semi-fungible term, “paraphilia.” Nor am I aware of the bill stating anything about what official psychiatry says about any practice or orientation having anything to do with what one can be discriminated against for or not for. As it is, I suspect state law allows for discrimination against violaters of laws, which would mean pedophiliacs and bigamists, at least for now, although I realize that VA has some weird achaic laws on sexual conduct, such as no oral sex for anybody or no sex on Sundays or no adultery, at least some of those (although the Bible calls for the stoning to death of married couples who have sex during the wife’s periods).

    I am not sure what the laws are about necrophilia and zoophilia, but I personally have no problem with allowing such people to work in state government. Nevetheless, I do not see having a proclivity for such philias as having anything to do with either gender identity or gender expression. Death and species are not genders.

  14. Well, if there are any state-owned zoos or animal shelters or clinics, there might be grounds for discriminating against zoophiliacs for working in such places, not to mention against necrophiliacs for such jobs in state-owned mortuaries, if there are any.

  15. Jason Misterka says:

    To J. Tyler Ballance

    “Is there any question why the latest round of layoffs have hit White Men the hardest?”

    I’d like you to show some data on this. My understanding is that the recession has had detrimental impact on men of all races.

  16. Well, we now have worse than the fooling with this bill, the executive order against discrimination, finally, from Gov. McDonnell. It omits gays and lesbians. As far as he is concerned, they can be discriminated against, although he provides no rationale for this. However, history will record him as being as backward and bigoted as those who supported discrimination against women and blacks. If he wants to cite inerrancy of the Bible for this, then let him propose a law to stone to death disobedient children and married couples who have sex during the woman’s periods. Those are in the Bible too.

  17. On the house side, Del. Adam Ebbin submitted a similar (identical) bill. The story in today’s DNR about Del. Todd Gilbert’s opposition to the bill says:

    [Gilbert’s] concern rested primarily with how, for example, “cross-dressing police officers” could affect law enforcement.

    “I don’t think someone in that situation could ever be effective in the role of a police officer trying to be a presence [while] on a [crime] scene,” he said.

    Gilbert’s statements echo remarks Obenshain made following the vote on the Senate proposal.

    Obenshain, speaking to The Associated Press, said that proposed law includes language dealing with gender identity and expression, which he said is different than sexual orientation.”

    Cross dressing police officers? Really? Even if that really happens, didn’t Cpl. Klinger still get the job done in M*A*S*H? Besides, don’t all police officers (male or female) wear the same uniform?

  18. Too late Gilbert. America’s top-cop WAS a cross-dresser and gay! He liked to wear a red dress, and be referred to as “Mary”. Yet he ran the FBI – J. Edgar Hoover.

    Todd should know better – when you want to chase the bad guys you take off your party dress and pull on a pair of pants!

  19. Jeremy Aldrich says:

    Doesn’t it seem the rules against cross-dressing only go one way?

  20. Scott says:

    To anyone interested… this episode of Radio Lab includes a very compelling story about our country’s first transgendered mayor. http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2009/10/02

  21. Regarding the DNR story, why do they make such a big deal over Gilbert, who is probably the most right wing, off-the-wall member of the House of Delegates, who also has a history of going after JMU? Are they pushing him for higher office or something? Pretty clearly they do not understand that this is shameful activity on his part, not something to trumpet triumphantly.

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