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Thursday, Nov. 30
The Indiana Daily Student


Official: Colleges can’t ban discrimination

Virginia’s attorney general has advised the state’s public colleges they don’t have the authority to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying only the General Assembly has that power.

The letter sent by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli to state college officials Thursday drew swift criticism from Democrats and gay rights activists.

Cuccinelli said the legislature has repeatedly refused to exercise its authority. Tuesday, a subcommittee killed legislation that would have banned job discrimination against gay state employees.

“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 nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,” he wrote.

He advised college governing boards to “take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law.”

Jon Blair, chief executive officer of the gay rights group Equality Virginia, said Cuccinelli’s “radical actions are putting Virginia at risk of losing both top students and faculty and discouraging prospective ones from coming here.” C. Richard Cranwell, state Democratic Party chairman, said colleges and universities could set policies that work for them “without meddling from Ken Cuccinelli.”

The attorney general said his letter merely stated Virginia law, which prohibits discrimination because of “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability,” but makes no mention of sexual orientation.

Cuccinelli said the criticism was from people frustrated in attempts to change the law.
“None of them suggest our reading of the law is wrong,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said colleges are bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Spokesman Chris Freund of the Family Foundation of Virginia, which opposes expanding anti-discrimination policies to protect gays, said the criticism is unwarranted.

“My understanding is all he’s done is essentially ask the universities to follow the law,” he said.

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