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McDonnell, Democrats respond to Cuccinelli letter to universities

Rosalind Helderman

Now the statements are coming fast and furious in response to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's letter to colleges and universities on nondiscrimination policies.

Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said this in a statement: "The legal analysis contained in the letter concerning the General Assembly's sole responsibility for setting state employment policy is consistent with all prior opinions from the Office of the Attorney General over the last 25 years on the subject."

But in a statement, Martin suggested McDonnell would not take action against university board members, known as visitors, who do not follow Cuccinelli's advice. McDonnell appoints members of public university's governing bodies.

"The Governor will appoint board members based solely on their ability and on their strong commitment to educational excellence in Virginia. The Governor expects that no Virginia college or university, or any other state agency, will engage in discrimination of any kind. The Governor will not tolerate discrimination in the Administration and his official written employment policy for the Office of the Governor expressly forbids discrimination on any basis other than qualification and merit," he said.

Meanwhile, many Democrats and advocacy groups have also issued statements.

Dick Cranwell, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, said called Cuccinelli's action "big government at its worst from a candidate who ran on small government."

Cranwell held a conference call on the issue this afternoon with Sen. Don McEachin, Sen. Louise Lucas and Del. Ken Plum.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) called Cuccinelli's action "puzzling."

"I believe the Attorney General's advice will hurt the ability of our colleges and universities to attract the very best faculty, staff and students, and damage the Commonwealth's reputation for academic excellence and diversity," Warner said in a statement.

The gay rights group Equality Virginia called on McDonnell to rein in Cuccinelli. "It is the least we can expect from a Governor who supposedly opposes discrimination," said the group's executive director Jon Blair.

Meanwhile, the ACLU of Virginia has announced that legal director is writing letters to each college indicating it will represent any student or employee who feels they've been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. (All universities we've spoken to say they have no plans to discriminate.)

By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 5, 2010; 6:06 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Mark Warner , Robert F. McDonnell , Rosalind Helderman  
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See, McDonnell won't discriminate against people who refuse to discriminate against gays. He's obviously not homophobic, people.

Posted by: reiflame1 | March 6, 2010 2:03 AM | Report abuse

Sorry reiflame--there's nothing in written policy that says McDonnell won't (as you write) "discriminate against people who refuse to discriminate against gays." Instead, this remark references his own policy, which assures protection to everyone except the GBLT community.

This Administration defined "discrimination" in Executive Order 6 ( This policy established a conditional basis for what "discrimination of any kind" actually means--and that definition does not include sexual orientation.

So, when the Governor's statement says that he expects universities will not engage in "discrimination," it is more than a little misleading.

In turn, by asking universities to uphold his discrimination policy, McDonnell effectively boosts Cuccinelli's advisory letter.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | March 7, 2010 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Let's see..

Could this develop to a point where the federal courts rule against gay discrimination, and the Virginia AG recommends the closing of Virginia universities?

In the proud tradition of the Commonwealth -- reactionary from the very beginning...


Posted by: kg4shd | March 7, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

since the public only provides ~10% of state funding to universities anyway... just privatize them, tell the AG to 'pound sand,' and move on.

Posted by: millionea7 | March 8, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

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