March 10, 2010 — University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III issued the following statement Wednesday evening.
To All Students, Faculty Members, and Staff:
I am including a copy of Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive One, which was issued this afternoon. You may receive this document directly from the Governor later tonight. This directive prohibits discrimination against any person (including students and employees) within the public colleges and universities, and grounds this prohibition in Constitutional protections that belong to all of us. Please read the document carefully, and note particularly these sentences in the second paragraph:
"The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits discrimination without a rational basis against any class of persons. Discrimination based on factors such as one's sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, discrimination against enumerated classes of persons set forth in the Virginia Human Rights Act or discrimination against any class of persons without a rational basis is prohibited."
Because the public colleges and universities are Executive Branch agencies, this directive applies to the University of Virginia. The Governor's citation of the 14th Amendment (the Equal Protection Clause) moves this issue to the highest level of law in the United States.
Impasses of the kind that the Governor's Executive Directive resolves occur from time to time. They are not commonplace, but of course neither is the combination of wisdom and bravery embedded in the Governor's directive. As impasses are resolved, it is not unusual for the Governor and other state officials to provide implementation guidance. The Governor and others who have worked on these issues throughout the week need to devote their time now to the State's budget crisis and to other matters that must be addressed as the General Assembly wraps up this session's work.
This directive's eloquence and clarity set it apart from many policy statements that come from all sorts of sources. Perhaps needless to say, I am personally grateful to the Governor for it. This had become an uncommonly troubling issue, one that cuts to the core of our common claims to the most fundamental kinds of personal security under the rule of law. Discussion will undoubtedly continue, as it should in a free society that thrives on open discourse. But as rightly alarmed as many of us and I myself were by last week's Attorney General's letter, I was struck through the week by the wisdom and dignity of the discussion that occurred. Let us hope that the subsequent discussion will rise to the level of the model struck in the directive.
I am profoundly grateful to Governor McDonnell, to others who have helped to reason through this matter, and of course to you for the civility and decency with which you have pondered these issues. And thank you for the notes of advice that have come this week.
Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive One
Issued March 10, 2010
STANDARD OF CONDUCT FOR CABINET MEMBERS, EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCY HEADS, MANAGERS, SUPERVISORS AND EMPLOYEES CONCERNING EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
As the chief executive officer for the Commonwealth of Virginia, I hereby establish a standard of conduct to ensure that all cabinet members, Executive Branch agency heads, managers, supervisors and employees understand and enforce state and federal law prohibiting employment discrimination.
Employment discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated by this Administration. The Virginia Human Rights Act recognizes the unlawfulness of conduct that violates any Virginia or federal statute or regulation governing discrimination against certain enumerated classes of persons. The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits discrimination without a rational basis against any class of persons.
Discrimination based on factors such as one's sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, discrimination against enumerated classes of persons set forth in the Virginia Human Rights Act or discrimination against any class of persons without a rational basis is prohibited.
Consistent with state and federal law, and the Virginia and United States Constitutions, I hereby direct that the hiring, promotion, compensation, treatment, discipline and termination of state employees shall be based on an individual's job qualifications, merit and performance. No employee of the Executive Branch shall engage in any discriminatory conduct against another employee.
Allegations of any violation of the law or this standard of conduct shall be brought promptly to the attention of the Director of the Department of Human Resource Management for review and corrective action. Any cabinet member, agency head, manager, supervisor or employee who discriminates against a state employee or prospective employee in violation of the law or this standard of conduct shall be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, ranging from reprimand to termination.
I further direct agency heads to ensure that every manager and supervisor in their respective agency is aware of and enforces this standard of conduct. Civility, fair treatment, and mutual respect shall be the standard of conduct expected in state employment.
Robert F. McDonnell, Governor