Tim Kaine Evolves on ENDA

This post originally appeared on the blog for the student club I lead, Queer & Allied Activism.

Former VA Gov. and DNC chairman, Tim Kaine, and Brian Moran, current VA Democratic Party chairman, came to speak to the University Democrats (UDems) this morning in Garden I. Kaine is campaigning to replace Democrat, Jim Webb as a Virginia Senator in 2012.

Kaine mentioned in his talk that he wanted to keep Virginia competitive and attract the best talent from out of state, so naturally I asked him about Cuccinelli’s March 2010 opinion (see some of our coverage here, here, and here), and support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would provide LGBTQ employees protection from being fired for being who they are. Versions of ENDA have stagnated in Congress since 1994.

We, Democrats, have to fight for the Jeffersonian notion that everybody is equal. [...] At the federal level we can do more. [...] Trying to make sure we pass ENDA, the [Employment] Non-Discrimination Act, those are things I would love to work on federally.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear such a positive answer; I suppose Mr. Jefferson’s gardens tend to be an ingratiating environment. However, we must realize “I would love to work on” is a phrase used when discussing topics like my stack of reading and job applications for this semester – we’ll see what actually gets done when it happens. “Would love to work on” is not “I will cosponsor” or “I will get off the sidelines and champion.” (Kaine borrowed Sen. Gillibrand’s slogan at one point.) A good sign for sure, but it reminds me of another politician whose views are “evolving” at a frustratingly slow pace. #evolvealready.

It seems Kaine’s rhetoric has evolved somewhat since 2006 when he came out against the anti-gay Marshall-Newman marriage amendment to the Virginia Constitution, while at the same time supporting marriage between “one man and one woman” – this position presumably has not changed. He recently reversed a 2005 position and now believes “gay individuals should be able to adopt.” The DNC also put out this lovely fluff video in which he does not mention marriage at all. In the seconds preceding my video below, Kaine touts his gubernatorial Executive Order prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for Commonwealth employees. However, that “protection” seems to have had no teeth for Michael Moore.

Kaine’s comments come at a pivotal time for the University with the arrival of many top ranking leaders including President Teresa Sullivan, Provost John Simon, Chief Operating Officer Michael Strine, and new members on the Board of Visitors. Faculty and staff are hopeful these new leaders will finally implement non-discrimination protections and provide health benefits to “Other Qualified Adults.” In an interview for part one of a wonderful series by The Cavalier Daily, Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Carkeek backs up Kaine’s comments:

Not being able to offer benefits to domestic partners makes the U.Va. benefits package less competitive than that of other universities we compete with for the best faculty and staff.

Both the University and the Commonwealth’s continued economic growth and success are hindered by the General Assembly, Congress, and Cuccinelli’s resistance to equal protection and benefit measures. With the formation of an LGBT subcomittee of the Diversity Council, we can hope that it will get better here at UVA, but just as with Kaine’s support for ENDA, until healthcare benefits are offered and non-discrimination is enforced nationally, we will continue to monitor the evolution of these issues and push all these officials to do the right thing.

Watch the video here:

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