WINCHESTER — A decision by the Frederick County Board of Supervisors to remove workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) staff members is not a dead issue, board members say.
At Wednesday night’s board meeting, seven residents urged the panel to reconsider its Aug. 14 decision to rescind a policy that had been in place for about a month extending protections to LGBTQ county government employees per its anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy.
Shawnee District resident Victoria Kidd urged the board to restore protections for LGBTQ employees, saying “LGBTQ people have an awful lot to offer this community.”
“On a more personal level, I am here to speak to you tonight because as an individual, I have personally been fired from a job before for being a member of the LGBTQ community,” said Kidd, who co-owns the Hideaway Cafe in Winchester. “I can tell you that that is not something that I ever want anyone else to experience. It is very personal, it is very hurtful.”
On Aug. 14, the board voted 6-1 to rescind its recently implemented policy on the basis that it violated Virginia’s Dillon Rule, which limits a local governing body’s authority to only pass ordinances or exercise power in areas where the General Assembly has granted authority. Virginia has no law protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the private or public workplace.
Red Bud Run District Supervisor Blaine Dunn explained at the time the county’s policy had to be revoked because it violated the Dillon Rule.
Shawnee District Supervisor Shannon Trout was the only member who voted against rescinding the policy.
People who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting pointed out that Alexandria and Arlington County have protections for their employees based on sexual orientation and that the state government bans discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
County resident William Wright, who is bisexual, said the only thing that matters is whether employees can do what is required in their job.
“Me being bisexual is not a choice,” Wright said. “It is what I am. It would not be relative to how well I can do my job.”
Tabitha Shanholtzer, who has lived in the county more than 50 years and is transgender, also told the supervisors she has faced discrimination.
“I have almost 40 years of work experience in construction,” Shanholtzer said. “I have experienced being told, ‘I don’t want to hire you because you are transgender.’”
Dunn told the audience the board is having discussions with the county’s Human Resources director to find language for the policy that would be compatible with state law. He said a more in-depth discussion will be held at a future Human Resources Committee meeting. Dunn is chairman of the committee.
Gainesboro District Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy, who is on the county’s HR Committee, said the county is trying to craft a policy that would not cause legal challenges but would ensure that no county employee is unjustly discriminated against or harassed
He said he would support restoring the LGBTQ protections if they turn out to not be in violation of the Dillon Rule.
“I do think that the intention is that this will come back,” McCarthy said about the issue. “I don’t think this is a dead deal.”
Attending Wednesday night’s board meeting at the County Administration Building were Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. and supervisors Gary Lofton, Blaine Dunn, Shannon Trout, J. Douglas McCarthy, Judith McCann-Slaughter and Bob Wells.