Gay Rights Issue Rocks Virginia College Campuses

The issue is even on Jon Stewart's radar

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) is at the center of a campus firestorm over gay rights policies at the commonwealth’s public universities.  

    Students at Virginia Commonwealth University are using Facebook to organize another a campus rally today and expect more than 1,000 protestors to attend.  

    The protest centers on a letter Cuccinelli wrote last week warning Virginia’s public universities that they could not adopt policies that prohibit discrimination on sexual orientation. Cuccinelli’s stated reasoning is that the General Assembly has not approved the ban.

    About 1,000 students and faculty turned out Tuesday at VCU to blast the AG, as GOP lawmakers were turning back a new effort to include sexual orientation in state anti-discrimination policies, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch

    Many other Virginia schools are in spring break, but are using social media to rally to the cause. More than 5,200 people have joined the Facebook page “We Don’t Want Discrimination In Our State Universities And Colleges!” Cuccinelli’s Facebook page has also become a forum on the matter, with comments that either embrace or deride his position.
    The matter has even caught the attention of the social media’s Walter Cronkite. On The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, host Jon Stewart joked that Gov. McDonnell has issued an executive order allowing gays to be fired and Cuccinelli interprets the law as "you can't be gay in college."  
     

    Unlike his two predecessors, Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) has not issued an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.  In an interview with the Washington Post Monday, he supported the legal reasoning of Cuccinelli’s letter but said he would not allow discrimination at state colleges or agencies.
     
    “There’s a long list of opinions. It’s all separation of power issues,” McDonnell told the Post. “But that doesn’t mean that a governor can’t say to his managers, ‘I will not tolerate discrimination in this administration.'”
     
    McDonnell also told the Post he might sign legislation extending legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation -- if it were to pass the General Assembly. That's a big if. The Republican-led House of Delegates has repeatedly derailed similar measures.
     
    That’s just fine with conservative groups such as the Family Foundation. In a blog posting Monday, the group wrote: 
     
    “It is about government recognition — acceptance — of the homosexual lifestyle. Make no mistake, this debate is a serious one and it will have long-term consequences, not just for state government, but private businesses and, ultimately, our Marriage Amendment. The goal is not anti-discrimination — it is forced acceptance of a lifestyle that many Virginians find antithetical to their faith."
     
    The Washington Post published an editorial on Wednesday against Cuccinelli, saying the AG is right about one thing:
    The Virginia legislature has failed -- disgracefully, in our view -- to guarantee protections to gay and lesbian residents of the state. If legislators did their jobs, the attorney general's well-known views on the evils of homosexuality would become quaint artifacts instead of the arbiter of policy for what has been, until now, a first-class system of higher education.