Thursday, March 11, 2010

Virginia Academia Furious Over Conservative Governance

Days after the attorney general ordered colleges and universities to drop their formal policies of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the governor reinforced the A.G.'s communication, while pointing out that discrimination of any kind is not acceptable.

-- From "Va. Gov. McDonnell prohibits bias against gay state workers" by Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post Staff Writer 3/11/10

Hoping to quell a growing uproar on Virginia's college campuses over gay rights, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell issued a directive to all 102,000 state employees Wednesday that prohibits discrimination in the state workforce, including on the basis of sexual orientation, and warns he will reprimand or fire anyone who engages in it.

McDonnell's directive comes a week after Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) distributed a letter to the state's public colleges and universities asking them to remove references to sexual orientation from their campus nondiscrimination policies. Cuccinelli says that only the General Assembly has the authority to extend legal protections to gays.

McDonnell (R) has said he supports the legal reasoning of that opinion, which mirrored his advice on the issue as attorney general. The governor said Wednesday that he continues to believe that without legislative approval, universities and state agencies cannot issue orders that would allow employees or others to sue in state court over discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

And, in a departure from his Democratic predecessor's stance, McDonnell issued an executive order last month, which carries the force of law, on the issue of workplace discrimination that did not mention sexual orientation.

But McDonnell said Wednesday that Cuccinelli's letter had caused confusion and anger among students, college presidents and others that he could address with a clear statement opposing discrimination and a promise to use the human resources process to punish an employee found to have shown bias.

The statement was the most forceful yet on gay issues for McDonnell, who was elected in November on a pledge to focus on jobs and the economy while upholding conservative social values. McDonnell's move might indicate a split over strategy with Cuccinelli, whose political philosophy he broadly shares.

In a brief statement, however, Cuccinelli applauded McDonnell for the "tone he is setting for the Commonwealth of Virginia."

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