Originally published: June 30, 2014, 9:27 p.m.
Updated: July 1, 2014, 10:33 a.m.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory passed over protections for LGBT workers in signing a new executive order today barring employment discrimination for state workers. Statewide LGBT advocates are condemning the exclusion and are insisting the governor revisit the new order. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the governor continues to claim the new order mirrors federal employment language which already includes protections for LGBT workers.
The executive order was signed on Monday and prohibits discrimination against state employees on the basis of “race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, disability and genetic information.”
McCrory, a Republican, did not include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“This order ensures fairness and encourages people to work for state government,” McCrory said in a release. “Insisting on nondiscrimination will strengthen our state and demonstrate that we value diversity of thought and each of our citizens’ unique backgrounds.”
The new executive order affects some 87,000 employees of the state and various state agencies.
Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro said the exclusion of LGBT protections “flies in the face of fairness.”
“…[A]ny executive order ensuring ‘equal opportunities’ that excludes protections for gay and transgender North Carolinians not only flies in the face of fairness, but also discourages fair-minded people from working for the state,” Sgro said in a release.
Sgro and his group are insisting the governor “revisit his views” and “include protections for North Carolina’s hardworking gay and transgender employees — all of whom can currently be fired for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance.”
“Until then,” Sgro added, “the governor’s gesture toward inclusivity will be just that.”
North Carolina currently has no employment protections for LGBT workers. It is one of 29 such states were LGBT employees can still be fired based solely on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Efforts to pass employment protections for state workers and teachers have consistently stalled in the state legislature. Federal protections were passed in the U.S. Senate last fall, but have since stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. House.
Workers tied directly to the federal government are already protected under pre-existing presidential executive orders and rulings from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On Monday, President Barack Obama said he would issue an executive order more clearly prohibiting discrimination in federal employment on the basis of gender identity.
Equality North Carolina said they will continue to push for state-based protections.
“Equality NC will continue to fight for common sense updates to state workplace protection policies that ensure no one is every fired from their job for who they love or who they are,” Sgro said.
McCrory’s office responds
Reached for comment on Monday evening, McCrory Deputy Communications Director Ryan Tronovitch told qnotes via email that McCrory’s executive order was similar to both federal language and past executive orders from previous North Carolina governors.
“This Executive Order mirrors federal language as well as orders issued under Governors Hunt, Martin, Easley and Perdue over the course of more than 30 years,” Tronovitch said. “Insisting on fairness and nondiscrimination for employees and applicants to North Carolina’s state government is a tradition that Governor McCrory is proud to continue.”
Federal equal employment policies do, in fact, cover sexual orientation, instituted by executive order of President Barack Obama, as well as gender identity, as interpreted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
When this fact was pointed out to Tronovitch, he replied, “Actually…you are wrong,” and directed this writer to an outdated 2009 version of federal employment policies.
In a follow-up on Tuesday morning, Tronovitch acknowledged his earlier, incorrect statement, but then issued a corrected statement that continued to suggest the new executive order “mirrors” federal regulations.
“This Executive Order mirrors federal and state regulations as well as orders issued under Governors Hunt, Martin, Easley and Perdue during the course of more than 30 years,” Tronovitch’s updated statement read.
Tronovitch added, “Governor McCrory and the state of North Carolina do not accept discrimination of any kind. What the governor does not tolerate are employees who do not do their jobs.”
Tronivitch has declined repeatedly to specifically comment on the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, and whether the governor believes LGBT employees aren’t deserving of the same protections offered to other workers.
“Matt – our statement answers your questions,” Tronovitch replied to this writer.
A request to receive a copy of the executive order has not been fulfilled.
Sgro said McCrory’s staff should know more about similar policies for government workers elsewhere.
“It’s problematic that the governor’s staff is not being briefed on the most up-to-date protections that the federal government has offered across the board and has been offering through various pieces of federal law for over a decade at this point,” Sgro said when reached via phone late Monday evening.
Sgro said pending employment protections for LGBT workers have “broad bipartisan support” across the nation, including in states like Florida and Pennsylvania. In neighboring Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order protecting commonwealth employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity earlier this year.
Sgro said McCrory has the ability to make these inclusive changes now.
“Especially given his time as mayor of Charlotte, I’m confident Gov. McCrory has heard strong feedback from the business community that they want to make sure we ensure these protections,” Sgro said. “We will continue to press, as will members of the business community, for McCrory to do the right thing and enact those protections.”
Sgro added, “As somebody who has worked for five years in economic development and worked with economic developers and chambers of commerce across the state of North Carolina, I can tell you that these folks want Gov. McCrory to enact protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”