In the latest move by Virginia’s new, anti-gay Republican leadership, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has urged the state’s colleges and universities to rescind policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a letter Thursday to the presidents, rectors and boards of visitors of Virginia public colleges, Cuccinelli said that 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.“
Most of the state’s public universities have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Today they were exploring how to react to Cuccinelli’s letter.
Cuccinelli (R), who took office in January, 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.”
Last month, just two weeks after taking office, Republican governor Bob McDonnell quietly signed an executive order to prohibit discrimination “on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities.”
McDonnell’s order effectively rescinded an earlier order by his predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine, signed Jan. 14, 2006, that included sexual orientation in the state’s non-discrimination policy.