Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Quarantined," says VA Attorney General

If you've followed recent events in Virginia, then you know that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has issued an opinion that Virginia public colleges and universities can't expand their non-discrimination policies beyond the categories passed by the General Assembly. That means, according to the Attorney General, that they can't add sexual orientation and gender identity. The state's higher education community is in an uproar and fighting back, which prompted the governor to issue and executive directive, which does not have the force of law and is less authoritative than an executive order, that says that there is to be no discrimination including on the basis of sexual orientation; he left out gender identity--something that is happening quite a bit in the discussion, I might add. TIME helps catch you up if you're just now hearing about this.

Despite the fact that governor blinked a little and shifted positions a tad, the attorney general's favorite song must be "I Won't Back Down" because he is standing behind his opinion and he's using a disturbing image in his justification, according to the Washington Post:

"What I said in my March 4 letter was accurate advice under Virginia law, and it still stands," Cuccinelli said in brief comments to reporters after addressing lawmakers on an unrelated issue.

Universities, he said, "don't have any more authority than the General Assembly gives them, which is a similar position as the localities. And until the General Assembly gives them more authority, they're quarantined by what they've got."

That's right; he used the "Q" word. Google the phrase "quarantine homosexuals" and you'll see what kind of trash comes up. Normally, I'm not much on these kinds of subconscious/psychoanalytical readings of politics, but I have to say the word "quarantine" was a bit arresting. Substantively, of course, what is disturbing is that he persists in denying protection to all students, staff, and faculty of Virginia's public colleges and universities.

The whole fiasco has one up-shot, though. It has done more than any other recent news story to drive home the point that our community lacks and needs job protections. Let's hope something positive comes from it.

-Chris Sanders

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