This is very bizarre. What are Virginia's colleges supposed to do now? Introduce mandatory discrimination?AG says public colleges cant prohibit bias against gays
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says Virginias colleges and universities cannot prohibit discrimination against gays because the General Assembly has not authorized them to do so.
In a letter Thursday to the presidents, rectors and boards of visitors of Virginia public colleges, Cuccinelli said: the law and public policy of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or like classification, as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly.
He said the recipients must consider the letter as the opinion and advice of the office of Attorney General.
And the recently elected Attorney General said those colleges or universities that have included sexual orientation in their policies acted without proper authority and those policies are invalid.
Tucker Martin, Gov. Bob McDonnells director of communications, noted that the legal analysis . . . is consistent with all prior opinions from the Office of the Attorney General over the last 25 years on the subject.
But Martin added: The governor will appoint board members based solely on their ability and on their strong commitment to educational excellence in Virginia. The governor expects that no Virginia college or university, or any other state agency, will engage in discrimination of any kind.
The official written employment policy for the office of the governor expressly forbids discrimination on any basis other than qualification and merit, he added.
Most of the states public universities have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Today they were exploring how to react to Cuccinellis letter.
Our policy covers some things the attorney general says it cant, said University of Mary Washington Rector Nanalou Sauder. She said the board and UMW administrators will need to discuss what action the university can take.
We expect that theres going to be significant reaction from the university community as they learn about it, said Virginia Commonwealth University spokeswoman Pam Lepley.
College of William and Mary spokesman Brian Whitson said the letter would need to be closely reviewed before the college can determine how to proceed.
William and Mary has had a long tradition of inclusion and diversity, he said.
The University of Virginia had no comment. The university received a lettermarked privileged and confidentialfrom the attorney general. Any questions about the letter will need to be addressed to the attorney general or his office, spokeswoman Carol Wood said in a statement.
Jon Blair, chief executive officer of Equality Virginia, criticized Cuccinellis opinion.
Attorney General Cuccinelli clearly doesnt understand that his radical actions are putting Virginia at risk of losing both top students and faculty, and discouraging prospective ones from coming here, he said.
Ashley Mitchell, youth programs coordinator for ROSMY, called the letter a huge step backwards.
Colleges and universities have done a fantastic job ensuring the rights of sexual minority youths and this will be a huge challenge for them, she said.
Cuccinelli said the General Assembly has defined protected classes on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, age, marital status or disability, but on numerous occasions considered and rejected creating a protected class on the basis of sexual orientation.