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Williamsburg protects gays in antidiscrimination policy

Williamsburg protects gays in antidiscrimination policy

The Williamsburg, Va., city council on Thursday unanimously approved a proposal to add the words sexual orientation to its antidiscrimination policy. The council voted 5-0 to change the wording to specifically protect the city's gay workers. The former policy said the city does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, or disability in employment or the provision of services. "We did not discriminate anyway, so why not say so?" Mayor Jeanne Zeidler said. "I think people in our community were very supportive and saw it as a legitimate civil rights issue." City resident and College of William and Mary professor George Greenia asked the council last month to consider adding the phrase to the policy. Greenia noted that several other localities and organizations include sexual orientation in their policies. City manager Jack Tuttle and city attorney Joe Phillips opposed the change, arguing that the former policy was in line with state and federal law, which does not include the phrase in its equal opportunity statements. "There are many examples of personal conduct in addition to 'sexual orientation' which are not job qualification factors and should not be the basis of employment discrimination. But adding to the list begs the question, 'Why stop there?'" Tuttle wrote in a December 2 memo to the city council. "The vast majority of local not open themselves to that question by simply conforming to established law." Council member Mickey Chohany said he was undecided on which way he'd vote until Thursday. He said he initially had reservations about the proposal because he feared it would be cumbersome to administer but ultimately decided his concerns weren't strong enough to merit voting against it. Several other localities in Virginia have adopted similar policies, including Charlottesville, Alexandria, Roanoke, Virginia Beach, and Arlington and Fairfax counties, according to Equality Virginia, the state's leading gay rights organization. "It's just really good news for our community," said Dyana Mason, the group's executive director. "And it just demonstrates that our march forward will continue." The policy change takes effect immediately.

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