Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, March 05, 2010

  VA Attorney General: Colleges have no authority to renounce bigotry

The proudly homophobic new Attorney General of Virginia, Kenneth Cuccinelli, didn’t waste much time in trying to force Virginia’s public colleges and universities to eliminate the protections against discrimination that they’ve extended to sexual orientation. The Washington Post has obtained a letter dated March 4, 2010 that he sent to every public institution of higher learning. In it, Cuccinelli advises them that they lack the authority to foreswear such bigotry without explicit approval from the state’s General Assembly and from him. Since the Assembly has considered and rejected attempts to extend anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation to all state employees, says Cuccinelli, by adopting their own policies the colleges and universities are flying in the face of the Assembly’s deliberate acceptance of bigotry against homosexuals.

Cuccinelli is a real piece of work. Here is the Virginia Pilot’s assessment of his candidacy last October:

He sponsored a bill to waive unemployment compensation costs for companies that fire workers for not speaking English on the job. The measure would have affected only legal workers because illegal immigrants don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

Cuccinelli’s views on reproductive rights don’t align with those of most Virginians. He favors legislation that would grant legal rights to fetuses at conception. He has sponsored bills requiring strict regulations that would put most abortion clinics out of business. He voted against a bill stating that contraception is not abortion.

He declined to commit to a nondiscrimination policy against gays and lesbians observed by former Attorney General Bob McDonnell: “ My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that. ... They don’t comport with natural law. I happen to think that it represents (to put it politely; I need my thesaurus to be polite) behavior that is not healthy to an individual and in aggregate is not healthy to society.”

To put it politely, Cuccinelli’s election would bring embarrassment to Virginia, instability to the state’s law firm and untold harm to the long list of people who don’t fit his personal definition of morality.

Cuccinelli’s letter is available here (PDF). It is a fiercely determined attempt to bend the state college administrations to his will. Cuccinelli admits hastily that their Boards of Visitors “have the authority to make needful rules and regulations”, but proceeds to ignore that power in his discussion of why they should overturn their anti-discrimination policies. They “are, at all times, subject to the control of the General Assembly.” Hence, Cuccinelli argues, if the Assembly hasn’t ordered them to renounce discrimination against homosexuals then they’re actually overstepping the limits of their authority to regulate themselves if they do renounce it.

Besides, Cuccinelli asks, what would happen if homosexuals take these anti-discrimination policies seriously and get all uppity and legal on you when you do discriminate against them?

If you think that this right wing nut’s argument is preposterous, then you aren’t alone. The opening of his letter is revealing. Cuccinelli is very coy about what inspired him to raise this issue in the first place. He refers vaguely to “several inquiries” that “have been made” (by whom?) into the colleges’ authority to develop their own non-discrimination policies, and to “more questions” that arose (from?) about the application of his office’s advice. So, he says, the current letter is being sent out to “ensure that no confusion exists” about, well, what he wants the colleges to do.

In other words, Cuccinelli decided it was high time to meddle. He's an angry sort of man and he should succeed in stirring up more anger before he's finished.

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