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Va. college students lash back at Cuccinelli position on gay rights

Update: More political reaction to the Cuccinelli letter.

Virginia college students began to mobilize Monday in response to a legal opinion from the state's attorney general saying Virginia's public colleges have no authority to ban discrimination against gay employees.

The letter from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, dated Thursday, was made public Friday, just as many state university students were leaving for Spring Break. The geographical hurdle has pushed much of the dissent online.

More than 3,000 people have joined one Facebook page titled, "WE DON'T WANT DISCRIMINATION IN OUR STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES!" Nearly 900 people have joined another page started by activists at the College of William and Mary.

The University of Virginia group Queer & Allied Activism has launched a social media campaign, urging students to protest on Cuccinelli's Facebook and Twitter pages, and to sign a petition organized by the group Equality Virginia.

Some students contend Cuccinelli released the letter late last week on purpose, because it caught many students leaving for break.

"I've never gotten so many e-mails from students wanting to do something," said Brandon Carroll, 21, student government president at Virginia Tech. In his view, any erosion in gay rights at state universities is "going to make us lose top students. It's going to make us lose top faculty."

Within the universities, talk has turned, of course, to whether the institutions will have to follow the advisory.

University officials weren't stepping forward Monday with opinions on the matter. But at the umbrella group State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, spokeswoman Kirsten Nelson responded with some historical context.

Cuccinelli reasons in his letter that only the General Assembly can assign legal protections to gay state employees.

Nelson cites the codes that lay out relationships between individual colleges and state government. By her reading, those codes "are somewhat vague," written in language that gives the institutions "a great deal of autonomy . . . historically, it has been assumed that it is the will of the General Assembly that the institutions retain broad control over their governance," she said, in an e-mail.

State colleges generally are afforded a measure of autonomy by state governments, said Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, a group representing presidents and provosts.

"I am sure that universities that have been implementing this policy of inclusiveness of the gay and lesbian community presumably want to continue to have that same policy," she said. "They may feel that capitulating to this directive or request puts them at a disadvantage as opposed to other major educational institutions that have largely embraced the policy of inclusiveness."

Meloy predicts that any change in anti-discrimination language would provoke outcry.

"You can just look at the issues that went on with regard to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to see the kinds of strong feelings that arise when institutions feel they must, due to administrative or legislative fiat, disadvantage a group that they wish to include and value," she said.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  March 8, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories:  Administration , Public policy , Publics  | Tags: College of William and Mary, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, University of Virginia, discrimination  
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We didn't start the culture war, but we will end it.

All Virginians deserve equal protection, do not stop till equality is achieved.

Posted by: bobbarnes | March 8, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli is working his hardest to make virginia a blue state again. this republican obssesion with other peoples sexual preferences is making think republican wives don't put out.

Posted by: MarilynManson | March 8, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Cuccinelli indicated in his campaign that he would "fight the homosexual agenda". Apparently, this is what he means.

Took him no time at all to start the persecution.

Posted by: tbailsh | March 8, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

The student response seems tepid compared to the heat of the hate-filled rhetoric against the Commonwealth.

Besides, what good is a policy that has no force of law? Without legal basis, inclusiveness talk is all just wishful thinking anyway.

Posted by: blasmaic | March 8, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Does religion make people (like Cuccinelli) less intelligent, or are less intelligent more apt to be religious?

Posted by: kenk3 | March 8, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

While I strongly disagree with this man's stance, I do have to ask, how exactly can a university enforce the policy if it is not codified into state law?

Posted by: thetan | March 8, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Its the New American Taliban Party at work, creating the White, Christian Nation we all want, with a gun in one hand and a bible in the other. Either vote these idjits out of office, or live with the effects of their hate. Voter's choice!

Posted by: GenuineRisk | March 8, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

A perfect example of why I voted for Steve Shannon over this clown.

Posted by: NoVAredsox | March 8, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

When Ken "Kookie" Cuccinelli ran for his last State Senate seat, he kept parking in my office's reserved parking space at his Campaign Headquarters, which was a basement office in Fairfax. Numerous signs are posted entering the lot, and when his staffers kept parking illegally, the campaigh manager put big signs on the front door to the office, front and back. Kookie, in his "KEN4SEN" car, just could not resist parking in my space, which was closest to the door to the lot (I've been a tenant since '97, and had rank). The signs said "DO NOT PARK IN MARKED/NUMBERED SPACES."

Kookie, the day before the election, parked in my again. I asked him in his office if he had seen all the signs; he responded "Are you a voter?" and then "Oh, the reserved spaces aren't for me?"

He can't comprehend common language and we made him Attorney General. Guess the idiots and bigots of the world deserve representation, too.

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | March 8, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Although I am generally against the practice of enshrining special treatment for all manner of groups in laws or policies (look at DC's Human Rights Act for an example of this gone awry), and generally support Cuccinelli, this move is inexplicable. Does he really have nothing better to do as AG than to pick a "culture war" type fight that alienates young and independent voters?

While Democrats form circular firing squads, GOPers are too busy shooting themselves in their feet to take advantage. Fantastic.

Posted by: JoeSchmoe06 | March 8, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

While I'm not a lawyer, his reasoning seems correct. This can be cleared up very easily- have the General Assembly pass a bill. Then if he refuses to apply the law, alot of these comments would be correct. But until then, I think he's interpreting the current language correctly.
Also, found it interesting the article gives links to two groups against the AG, but not one in support. Huh.

Posted by: SeanL | March 8, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse


Why didn't you slash his tires?

Posted by: kenk3 | March 8, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Why did Cuccinelli chose to issue this letter? As was pointed out in another article I read, the same anti-discriminatory policies he complains about also ban discrimination against veterans - somethat is, if his intepretation is correct, equal beyond the power of colleges. Va's Dillon rule is vague, subject to varying interpretaions - but Ken obvious issued this to appease his political bases - my prediction is that it will be utterly ignored by the state's univeersities - its an opinion, Ken is not the Supreme Court or the legislature, so its beyond his power to do anything about it. About the only context in which the issue could arise would be if a college terminated or disciplined an employee or student for violating the policy - and in that case, I strongly suspect that the court of public opinion would so embarass the violater that the punishment of the college would be secondary.

Now more seriously, how do we recall Ken or are we stuck with him for 4 years?

Posted by: VirginiaResident2007 | March 8, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Virginia will become the "butt" of jokes thanks to Ken Kookynutty.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | March 8, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like Cuccinelli's logic is that the colleges can't exceed the basic anti-discrimination laws of the state. I thought laws were meant to be a baseline that could be exceeded as long as the minimum standard is met.

I'm guessing he won't be happy until schools are required to discriminate.

Why would a straight person spend so much time focusing on gays

Posted by: cashink2003 | March 8, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

SeanL - You think "his reasoning seems correct"? Do you know how many conservative Republican Attorneys General preceded Cuccinelli who didn't have the need to publish this interpretation?

The term "Massive Resistance" was once used in Virginia to perpetuate bigotry. A new wave of Massive Resistance should be taken up by our public universities now to fight bigotry.

Posted by: ajlerner1 | March 8, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

What a shame that this bigot could take a fine university system backwards while the rest of the country moves forward. Universities should be among the most inclusive institutions in a free society and Virginia has led the country in academic freedom and advocating the rights of others. Let's hope that the universities will ignore him and force him to show his hand as a closed-minded, mean-spirited bigot who wants to make a great university system into one that can only be viewed a second-rate. Many good faculty and students will avoid coming to institutions in Virginia if they bow to discrimination of this sort.

Posted by: gary16 | March 8, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Thank God the Virginia budget shortfall is all fixed and squared away ; so now we have time to issue bigoted edicts.

Oh what's that you say...?

Posted by: stikyfingas | March 8, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Are gyas really arguing that any discrimination not specifically mentioned is permissible?

That means you could hire only blonds. Or only pretty people. Or only smokers. Or only people who vote (D). None of these groups are protected.

That's the problem with making protected groups. Once you start making groups, there's always another group that shouts to be included. Just say that no form of discrimination will be tolerated, other than performance.

Posted by: lug21 | March 8, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Virginia faculty are protesting Cuccinelli's recommendation:

Posted by: gbradleyAAUP | March 8, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Why would any G/L person move to VA anyway knowing how backwards they are when it comes to civil rights? I mean, sure, they don't wear sheets anymore and burn crosses, but they might as well. I say, all G & L's move out of VA, boycott shopping in VA, and see how the Commonwealth survives.

Posted by: Aimhigh2000 | March 8, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Yes. Good job Ken. Gay rights is not the same as civil rights. Do I really want to send my child to W&M or UVA??

Posted by: jjj33 | March 8, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

gays are receiving too much air space.. weird people man.. like goth people..

Posted by: rockettonu | March 8, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

LOL and in other news... check out the pic from the guy that wrote this article... ahahahaha

Posted by: rockettonu | March 8, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

what does everyone think is going to change because of this? Don't federal laws protect the perverts anyway?

Posted by: twotimetuna | March 8, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Next, he plans on resegregating schools and banning women from all majors that don't directly train them to be better wives and mothers.

Posted by: AxelDC | March 8, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

A small handful of Virginia college students want homosexuality in the schools ... but they don't speak for me. As a voter and a taxpayer, I'm sick and tired of these Homonazi's forcing that filth on kids, on me, and on Virginia at large.


Posted by: penniless_taxpayer | March 8, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting blog post. I'm glad to see the reaction it brought, mostly from those who believe in equal treatment for all.

Posted by: profstudent | March 8, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Penni(sense)less: Rove's father was gay, and it fed his hatred; Your Dad, Too? What do you FEAR, a Man's hand on your leg? Still can't get over Strom's loss in '48, or Wallace in '72? Miss Archie Bunker???

Pedophiles? Vast majority of pedophiles (97%) have a gender fixation opposite of their own gender, and identify themselves as Christians. Notable exceptions are the priests in the Catholic Church...

Sodomites? And how many "marraiges" would Jesus say you have had (ie, sexual experiences anside and outside of marraige)?

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | March 8, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm long past college days, but this news did my heart good.

Cuccinelli is a scary freak.

Posted by: solsticebelle | March 8, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

They'll turn Virginia's schools into the kind of wonderful institutions whose graduates Bush packed into the Justice Department -- they didn't know much law, but they suited his politics, prejudices and religion. Only Republicans would be proud to stand up and fight for the right to discriminate in employment.

Posted by: btmom | March 8, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

My family discussed this issue tonight. We used to watch that show, "To Catch a Predator" quite a bit. Seems we didn't remember any "gay" men being arrested, but there were an awful lot of youth pastors, preachers, sons of church leaders. Makes ya wonder.

Posted by: GenuineRisk | March 8, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

aren't most schools out right now for spring break?

Posted by: at0165 | March 8, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

CUCKOOnelli, the Virginia GOP's newest Ayatollah!

Posted by: kamaro1 | March 8, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

If I were a state college president in Virginia, I would be only too happy to tell Kookinelli that I'd take his advice in direct proportion to the percentage of my school's funding that comes from the state. For UVa, for example, only about 9% of the university's funds come from the state, leaving that school free to ignore 91% of the Kookster's wise counsel.

Since I'm not a university president, I'll just tell Messrs McDonnell and Kookinelli to do something more useful with my taxes like fixing transportation or easing the burden of those who are unemployed in this tough economy. Ken, if you've got nothing better to do than worry that state universities might be tolerant of gays and lesbians, come see me. I've got a bunch of potholes for you to fill. I'd like to get my money's worth from the tax dollars that pay your salary.

Posted by: Bob22003 | March 8, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Homophobia is intolerance which brings no benefit. Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not "kids" or "kids", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. Cuccinelli is the worst state general attorney for telling universities to repeal policies which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Young women and young men who are university students are doing the correct thing by protesting Cuccinelli. Universities and colleges in Virginia must not repeal policies which provide anti-discrimination protection for LGBT people. Universities make their own rules and because of that, the legislature isn't required to make rules for universities.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | March 8, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Whenever I go to DC for a conference or for other business, the only money I spend in VA is the taxi ride to get me the hell out of that state.

Posted by: rmnelson | March 8, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Ooops... heck, I should have said "heck".

Posted by: rmnelson | March 8, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

I sense a homosexual affair in someone's background. It is always the people in glass houses who throw stones.

Posted by: brandip_77 | March 8, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

The best way to avoid discrimination and hostile workplaces is by doing research about potential bosses on sites like eBossWatch.

Posted by: patjenks | March 9, 2010 5:07 AM | Report abuse

thetan - Universities have their own constitutions, usually drawn up by a student government in which they address things like discrimination.

I'm a student at Christopher Newport University and our Student Government Association adopted a bill a few years ago banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and preference.

While the students do not have control over the hiring and employment process at CNU, we do have control over discrimination in student-led groups. I would like to think that our colleges and universities would stand up for their LGBT students and faculty in the wake of all this craziness.

Posted by: snaresticks05 | March 9, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

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