The newly-elected Republican leadership of Virginia continues its rapid dismantling of the Commonwealth's human rights protections. Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has urged the state's public colleges and universities to abolish policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, reports The Washington Post.
In his most aggressive initiative on conservative social issues since taking office in January, Cuccinelli wrote in the letter sent Thursday that only the General Assembly can extend legal protections to gay state employees, students and others—a move the legislature has repeatedly declined to take as recently as this week. "It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth 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," he wrote in the letter. Colleges that have included such language in policies that govern university hiring and admissions—which include all of Virginia's largest schools—have done so "without proper authority" and should "take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law and public policy of Virginia," Cuccinelli wrote.
Cuccinelli's opinion can be read HERE (pdf). Officials at the Commonwealth's largest state universities, such as the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, are said to be reacting "cautiously to the letter." And it is unclear what legal recourse the AG would have if institutions do not abolish LGBT protections.
As recently as last week, the Virginia General Assembly has rejected bills to add the words "sexual orientation" to nondiscrimination statutes at least 25 times since 1997. Cuccinelli's action comes soon after newly-installed anti-gay Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell stripped gay and lesbian state workers of job protections.