It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that our new Attorney General was going to be an unrepentant activist, after stating on the record that he intended to “transform” the office as a “platform for long-term reform.” What did everyone think he meant by that, if not his intent to use the position to advance his public policy goals?
The response to Mr. Cuccinelli’s letter to our public college and university presidents makes it clear that fair-minded Virginians (that would be most of us) have no intention of putting up with this nonsense. I will provide links to other resources and suggestions for actions you can take at the end of this post, but there is one response that I find particularly gratifying. One of the bloggers at Too Conservative, a third-year law student, has schooled Mr. Cuccinelli on the law, and exposed the specifics of his abuse of office in a way that I could not have done. He makes some very compelling points, all the more so because they are coming from a fellow Republican who supported Mr. Cuccinelli’s campaign, and wishes to protect the Republican Party from the damage done by anti-gay ideologues. I also admire his calm and patient demeanor in dispatching the critics who are now turning on him. His analysis is well worth a read.
In a letter sent to the university presidents, the ACLU of Virginia points out that the Supreme Court has twice ruled that public policy that explicitly permits discrimination against gay and lesbian people is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that subsequently, “federal courts have repeatedly held that public employers may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”
If Mr. Cuccinelli believes that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia requires that public employers and universities be explicitly permitted to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, then he’s asserting authority for our public policy to violate the U.S. Constitution and defy federal law. While that position is not unprecedented in the history of Virginia, it’s certainly no history to be proud of. It also suggests that our AG is actively seeking to incite lawsuits in the hope of advancing his public policy goals, a rather self-centered use of the people’s resources in the current budget crisis.
Since everyone has an “opinion,” and anyone can give advice, mine to our public universities would be to advise Mr. Cuccinelli of his impotence by ignoring his transparently ideological letter. We are currently awaiting his “opinion” on the authority of our Board of Supervisors to update our own Equal Employment Opportunity statement, and I consider this university letter to be an indication of the caliber of his advice – not worth the paper it’s printed on.
If you, like many others, have had enough, here are some things you can do:
Email or call your Senator and Delegate right now, and insist that they put an end to this nonsense by passing SB 66. By codifying into law the former governor’s Executive Order prohibiting discrimination in state employment, the legislature can eliminate this issue immediately, but it must be done before the legislature adjourns. There is a meeting on Monday of the House General Laws Committee where SB 66 is on the table. The Committee could take the bill off the table and report it to the floor. Also contact Speaker William Howell, Majority Leader Morgan Griffith, and Committe Chair Chris Jones.
The other alternative is to get the Governor to send a bill down, which Equality Virginia has asked him to do (the text of EV’s letter is here). Call or email the Governor: 804-786-2211, or use the email form on his contact page on the website, www.governor.virginia.gov
If you are a student, parent, alum, or otherwise part of a public college or university community, please contact the president and/or board of visitors of your institution and encourage them to defend their community against this offensive attack by the AG.
Here is a draft resolution intended for student government, faculty senate, staff council or other university related club or organization (via Equality Virginia counsel):
Whereas, the current nondiscrimination policy of ____ University includes protections against sexual orientation (and gender identity);
Whereas, the President and the Board of Visitors have received a letter from the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia advising that they have no authority to adopt such a policy, and urging action to bring the policy into compliance with his understanding of state law;
Whereas, revocation of the University’s current nondiscrimination policy would strike at the heart of its mission and vision, undermine its reputation and standing in the academic community, possibly threatening its accreditation, and harm its ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest students, faculty and staff; and
Whereas, the Attorney General’s letter is not an official opinion of the Attorney General, and, as such, is simply advice which would not even be entitled to deference in a court of law;
Now, therefore be it resolved, that the President and Board of Visitors defend vigorously the current nondiscrimination policy of the University and change it only if ordered to do so by a court of last resort; and
Now, therefore be it further resolved, that the President and Board of Visitors actively support legislation that would change state law and policy to offer explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for all members of the university community.
Finally, please visit the Equality Virginia website for other actions you can take. They have a petition, and I think they would also welcome testimony about the kind of discrimination that make these policies necessary in the first place.