Monday, March 8, 2010

Va. AG Cuccinelli to State Colleges: Rescind LGBT Job Protection

Here we are again, folks. The commonwealth is once more the subject of national news due to our inexplicable culture of bigotry. Last week the District of Columbia, our Northern Virginia neighbor, expanded the scope of freedom and recognized the inherent dignity of all Americans when same-sex marriage became legal within it's borders. Two weeks ago the attorney general of Maryland, our neighbor across the Potomac, did the same by issuing a statement that said essentially, that although same-sex marriage remains illegal in the "Free State", there is no law preventing Maryland from recognizing those marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

Cooch sent a letter to all Virginia colleges and universities instructing them that they have no legal authority to implement policies that protect LGBT workers from workplace discrimination. The letter reads in part, “It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college of 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,”

This act of unabashed homophobia comes one month after Gov. McDonnell embarrassed the commonwealth by signing Executive Order 6 (2010) which barred workplace discrimination for statehouse employees based on several different factors, but specifically excluded sexual orientation and gender expression or identity. McDonnell said during his campaign that extending job protection to those two categories would be the purview of the legislation. Not so coincidentally, last month the Republican-controlled Virginia general assembly killed legislation that would have done just exactly that.

Equality Virginia's General Consel, Guthrie Gastanaga responded to Cuccinelli's letter, saying “They call it legal advice for a reason. I urge the university boards to get a second opinion before they take action that will adversely affect their ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest students.”

On Top Magazine reports this morning that The Virginia ACLU has sent a letter to all public colleges and universities in the commonwealth saying gays and lesbians are already protected from workplace discrimination under the U.S. Constitution:
“Regardless of state law or policy, not only should universities prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but they are required to do so under the U.S. Constitution,” Kent Willis, executive director of the group, said in a statement.

In the letter, written by Rebecca K. Glenberg, the group's legal director, the ACLU of Virginia says that the Supreme Court “held that discriminatory laws based on sheer animus toward lesbian and gay persons violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” in Romer V. Evans.

“If Ken Cuccinelli is trying to say that the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply in Virginia, his first significant act as attorney general is a giant step backwards and a huge embarrassment for the state,” Willis added.
The truly sad part of this whole story is that Virginia's democrats knew how anti-gay McDonnell and Cuccinelli were before the election and still chose not to turn out in significant enough numbers to prevent their election. We have only ourselves to blame for this.

I think it's time we tell this governor that Virginia's LGBT community will not be ignored. We will not sit by idly while our rights are violated. Until we stand up for ourselves, this type for institutionalized bigotry we continue. It's time we marched on the Statehouse in Richmond and demanded that our lawmakers extend full and equal protection to all Virginians. Stand up! Fight Back! Demand your rights!
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