Metro Weekly

McAuliffe promises to veto anti-LGBT legislation in final State of Commonwealth address

Governor tells lawmakers to "restrain" themselves from sending divisive bills to his desk

Terry McAuliffe, Credit – Edward Kimmel

Gov. Terry McAuliffe fired a rhetorical shot at the Virginia General Assembly in his final State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday night, warning Republicans that he will veto any legislation that targets the LGBT community or seeks to curb women’s reproductive rights.

McAuliffe, for whom the speech served as a victory lap of sorts with respect to his economic initiatives as chief executive, carved out a few minutes of time to drive home the point that such bills are “divisive and counterproductive.”

Pointing to North Carolina’s experiment with HB 2 as an example of the negative consequences of laws that are perceived as targeting LGBT citizens, the governor said that such bills not only embarrass the states that pass them, but kill jobs.

“Since North Carolina’s legislature passed HB 2, and their former governor signed it,” he said, referencing the defeat of Gov. Pat McCrory, “the state has lost out on millions in economic activity and thousands of jobs, as organizations like Deutsche Bank, PayPal, the NBA, the NCAA have withdrawn investments in that state.

“At the same time, Virginia has taken a different approach. Over the past three years, we have worked to send a message to the families and job creators all over the globe, that our commonwealth will not tolerate discrimination against anyone, including our friends and neighbors in the LGBT community.”

As McAuliffe spoke, two-thirds of the legislators present — mostly Republican members of the House, based on where they were seated — sat stone-faced, refusing to applaud.

McAuliffe also held up Virginia’s success in attracting the commercial real estate data firm CoStar Group, which will bring 732 jobs to Richmond, as an example of how being viewed more favorably on LGBT rights has benefitted the commonwealth.

McAuliffe alluded to the fact that CoStar chose to expand in Virginia because of concerns over HB 2, even though he noted that North Carolina offered the company a more robust incentive package. He then asked legislators for their assistance in “bringing more CoStars to Virginia, rather than turning them away.”

“I want to make it very clear that I will veto any legislation that discriminates against LGBT Virginians, or undermines the constitutional health care rights of our Virginia women,” McAuliffe said.

Firing another barb at Republican leaders within the General Assembly, McAuliffe pointed out that the GOP lacks the numbers to override his veto.

“I am 71-0 on veto override votes, and folks, I’m ready to keep my streak alive,” the governor said. “But I hope you will deny me the opportunity simply by restraining from sending to me things that are counterproductive to what we’re trying to do with the business community.”

Currently, there are four bills before the General Assembly that target the LGBT community for discrimination or seek to preempt high-profile court cases involving LGBT rights, such as the case of Gavin Grimm, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year.

McAuliffe also urged lawmakers to take action to remove the commonwealth’s now defunct ban on same-sex marriage from Virginia’s constitution, and eliminate any statutory bans that have been voided due to the legalization of marriage equality by the Supreme Court. Democrats in both chambers have introduced legislation to repeal both of those prohibitions on same-sex marriage.

“If we can work together to roll back unwise attacks on equality and constitutional rights, and stand against future proposals, we can send a message that Virginia is a commonwealth of equal opportunity for people and job creators from every walk of life,” the governor concluded.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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