HRC Blog

Virginia Schools Asked by Attorney General to Remove LGBT Protections

More of Virginia’s LGBT state employees may be losing employment protections – specifically, the staff and faculty of public educational institutions such as Virginia Tech, University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary. The Washington Post reports that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli – who supported the removal of sexual orientation as a protected category for state employees last month – has written to the state’s public colleges and universities with his legal advice to rescind policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, given the lack of state law on the matter:

"It is my advice that 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 non-discrimination policy absent specific authorization from the General Assembly."

Download the full letter [pdf] from the Washington Post. It's unclear whether or not the schools will have to comply – the WaPo's Virginia Politics blog further reports that several universities are so far declining to comment. According to our latest internal tallies, of the U.S. News top 120 colleges and universities, at least 45% have protections based on gender identity and 90% based on sexual orientation, including Virginia Tech, UVA and William & Mary. All eight Ivy League schools have prohibited discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity since 2006. Three weeks ago, employees of the state lost protections provided via previous Governors Kaine and Warner – Governor McDonnell issued a new executive order stripping sexual orientation as a protected category. As the state’s former Attorney General, McDonnell had opposed these protections given the lack of state law. The new Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, held the same views. Unfortunately, legislation to restore these protections (SB 66) was killed in a Virginia House of Delegates Subcommittee on Tuesday.

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