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Virginia AG turns back clock on gay rights

By LARRY O'DELL
March 7, 2010

Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia’s attorney general has advised the state’s public colleges that they don’t have the authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying only the General Assembly has that power.

The letter sent by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to state college presidents and other officials Thursday drew swift criticism from Democrats and gay rights activists.

Cuccinelli said the legislature has repeatedly refused to exercise its authority. As recently as Tuesday, a subcommittee killed legislation that would have banned job discrimination against gay state employees.

“It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘gender expression,’ or like classification, as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,” Cuccinelli wrote.

The Republican advised college governing boards to “take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law.”

Jon Blair, chief executive officer of the gay rights group Equality Virginia, said Cuccinelli’s “radical actions are putting Virginia at risk of losing both top students and faculty, and discouraging prospective ones from coming here.”

C. Richard Cranwell, state Democratic Party chairman, said Virginia’s colleges and universities were more than capable of setting policies that work for them “without meddling from Ken Cuccinelli.”

The attorney general said his letter merely stated Virginia law, which prohibits discrimination because of “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability,” but makes no mention of sexual orientation.

Cuccinelli said the criticism was coming from people who have been frustrated in their attempts to change the law.

“None of them suggest our reading of the law is wrong. It’s people who don’t like the policy speaking up because it’s their opportunity to go on the attack,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said colleges are bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

A spokesman for the Family Foundation of Virginia, which has opposed expanding state anti-discrimination policies to protect gays, said the criticism of Cuccinelli’s action is unwarranted.

“My understanding is all he’s done is essentially ask the universities to follow the law,” spokesman Chris Freund said. “It’s a little perplexing to see people respond the way they have.”

Virginia’s last two Democratic governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, signed executive orders barring state agencies from discriminating in hiring, promotions or firing based on sexual orientation. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who took office in January, removed protections based on sexual orientation from his anti-discrimination order.

As attorney general in 2006, McDonnell said Kaine exceeded his constitutional authority by extending protections to gays.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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3 Responses to Virginia AG turns back clock on gay rights

  1. silentSCREAM

    March 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Just another fine example of the polluted river of hateful prejudice that quenches the thirst of “right thinking” America. I can hear the cheers echoing for miles through the hollows and hills of Appalachia… and beyond. I mean, how could anyone not want to wet one’s whistle with the type of “family values” that overtly seek to disable an entire class of people… with the blessing and authority of government. I get a warm fuzzy feeling just knowing that such sanctimonious republicans are doing their bit to assure each and every American that WE THE PEOPLE ARE NOT ALL EQUAL IN THE EYES OF THE STATE.

  2. Jim

    March 8, 2010 at 7:36 am

    “Virginia’s last two Democratic governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, signed executive orders barring state agencies from discriminating in hiring, promotions or firing based on sexual orientation. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who took office in January, removed protections based on sexual orientation from his anti-discrimination order.”
    ___________________________________________________________

    It should be very evident just who is for “equal opportunities” for all. And it is certainly not the “right”. McDonnell and Cuccinelli are perfect examples of modern day Pharisees. “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men” Luke 16:15

  3. JerryG

    March 8, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Remember that bumper sticker promoting Virginia: Virigina Is For Lovers?

    It has now been officially replaced by: Virginia Is For Homophobes