Democrats in the Virginia General Assembly insist that Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, illegally appointed the director of the state’s renamed Office of Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion.  And they say they’re willing to give over $2 million more to commercial marijuana sellers to dramatize that point.

Created in 2020 under Youngkin’s predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion sprang from a concept popularized by the Left and commonly known as DEI.

However, in his second week as governor, Youngkin signed an executive order Jan. 19, 2022, removing the term “equity” from the office’s name and replacing it with “opportunity.“ 

In November 2022, the Republican governor appointed Martin Brown, who is black, as Virginia’s chief diversity, opportunity, and inclusion officer—as well as director of the renamed Office of Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion.

In response to Youngkin’s name change for the diversity office, Virginia Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, successfully offered an amendment to the state’s budget bill requiring that the office revert to its original name. 

Youngkin has criticized the budget passed March 9 by the Virginia General Assembly, and the spending plan awaits the Republican governor’s signature. Democrats hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate and a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates.

In a statement emailed Monday to The Daily Signal, Surovell said he “introduced the amendment because the governor has refused to hire a chief DEI officer which is a position created and titled in state law.”  

“If the governor is going to violate state law, the money needs to be directed,” the Senate majority leader added, apparently meaning “redirected.” 

Surovell’s budget amendment requires Youngkin to change “Diversity, Opportunity, and Inclusion” back to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” by June 1, or the diversity office’s $2.3 million funding would go to the Virginia Cannabis Equity Business Loan Fund, a program to help licensed marijuana sellers. 

“Governor Youngkin has been clear that he doesn’t have any interest in a retail market for marijuana; instead, we should be working to fix a backward budget written by Democrats that has $2.6 billion in new taxes on Virginia families,” Youngkin press secretary Christian Martinez said Monday in a written statement to The Daily Signal.  

“Since the beginning of the administration, the governor has challenged the groupthink of the progressive Democrats’ pursuit of equity at any cost, instead focusing on advancing equal opportunities, not equal outcomes for all.”  

Surovell didn’t respond before publication to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on why his amendment tied the sale of marijuana to the diversity office’s name change. 

Last year, Surovell and Virginia House Speaker Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, wrote to Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Republican, inquiring whether Youngkin’s name change for the office violated state law. 

In the letter, the two Democrats argued that Youngkin illegally renamed the office, saying the action violated the 2020 law that established the office in the executive branch with a director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The Senate and House leaders argued in their letter to the attorney general that Youngkin illegally named Brown as director since the governor didn’t appoint him to the office named in state law.  

In his written statement to The Daily Signal, Surovell said Youngkin had “hired someone for that office [and] renamed the person a diversity, opportunity, and inclusion officer who then made offensive comments regarding equity.”  

DEI is dead,” Brown said last April in a speech at Virginia Military Institute referencing the office’s name change. 

“We’re not going to bring that cow up anymore. It’s dead,” Brown said. “It was mandated by the General Assembly, but this governor has a different philosophy of civil discourse.”

The move caused an uproar in the General Assembly as many Democrats, joined by the Virginia chapter of the NAACP, demanded Brown’s resignation. 

The governor’s office defended Brown at the time, saying that Youngkin would “continue to advance equal opportunities—not equal outcomes—for all Virginians.”  

“This is too important of an issue to succumb to those seeking to cancel Chief Brown for challenging the groupthink of the progressive Left’s pursuit of equity at any cost,” the statement said. 

Ken McIntyre contributed to this report, which was modified with additional details within 24 hours of publication.