Richmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia today released a letter written to Richmond’s Mayor and City Council on July 29, 2013 asking them to reverse an action taken in May that undercut protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that were included in the Mayor’s April 2011 Executive Directive. At its meeting on May 28, 2013, the City Council unanimously adopted language in the City’s Personnel Manual that said protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation would apply “only to the extent now or hereafter permitted by law.”
Commenting on the letter, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the Virginia ACLU, said:
The limiting language included in the Manual last May creates uncertainty as to whether discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is or is not a violation of the City’s non-discrimination policy. The City Council has the power and, indeed, the obligation to protect all City employees from unconstitutional and illegal discrimination on the job.
We’ve been told that the City Attorney inserted this language into the new Personnel Manual and then told the Council that it could not act on the new Manual without his sign-off as to “form and legality” which he said he would withhold if the language was not included. Our research found no basis in the law for a legislative “veto” such as this by an attorney appointed to advise an elected governing body. We believe that the elected members of the Council should not cede their authority to an unelected lawyer who serves at their pleasure.
The ACLU of Virginia asks the City Council and the Mayor to take action promptly to restore to the Personnel Manual nondiscrimination language that clearly protects all City employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.