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Asking for a Brain Drain: Virginia's AG Rescinds Protections for LGBT People on University Campuses

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The swing voters in Virginia that placed Bob McDonnell into the Governor's mansion have definitely given the green light to institutionalized homophobia. Now emboldened, even more anti-gay Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has made a sweeping declaration that all anti-discrimination policies at the Commonwealth's campuses that protect LGBT people must now be rescinded. Buh-bye recruiting goals for top talent Virginia! (WaPo):

In the letter, Cuccinelli (R) wrote that only the General Assembly can extend legal protections to gay state employees -- a move the legislature has repeatedly declined to take, including as recently as this week.

"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," he wrote.

Colleges that have included such language in their policies -- which include all of Virginia's leading schools -- have done so "without proper authority" and should "take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law and public policy of Virginia," Cuccinelli wrote.

Cuccinelli's predecessor, Robert F. McDonnell (R), who became governor in January, had also held that only the General Assembly could name new classes for legal protections. But he never specifically targeted university policies that seemingly contradicted his position.

Reaction to Virginia AG's rollback was swift. Chris Geidner at MetroWeekly reports that the decision is already meeting with stiff resistance. Dr. Karen DePauw, the Vice President and Dean for graduate education at Virginia Tech said:

"We will continue to have an open and inclusive environment for the grad school, I am confident of that. I cannot speak for the whole university because I have not seen the letter and we haven't had a chance to talk about it. As vice president and dean for graduate education, I anticipate and am hopeful that we will have a thorough discussion before we take any final action.''

''We send the wrong message about our commitment to diversity and inclusion by removing sexual orientation. There are a number of faculty, staff and students at Virginia Tech who are LGBT or allies, and by removing that it says we are not as welcoming and inclusive to all.''

Jon Blair, Chief Executive Officer of Equality Virginia responded:

"I think that the universities have a responsibility to review this letter thoroughly and ask questions of the Attorney General.''

''Attorney General Cuccinelli clearly doesn't understand that his radical actions are putting Virginia at risk of losing both top students and faculty, and discouraging prospective ones from coming here.''

''It is time that Governor McDonnell come out from hiding and reign in Mr. Cuccinelli before his embarrassing and regressive actions permanently damage the reputation, educational system and competitiveness of our great Commonwealth.''

The blog of Queer & Allied Activism at the University of Virginia is worth a click to read its open letter to AG Cuccinelli and Gov. McDonnell. A snippet:

It is unbelievable that our "jobs governor" and his attorney general want state employees to be able to fired, or never hired to begin with because of who they are. This move sets the tone for the state and university and sends the message that LGBTQ individuals are not welcome in Virginia and is a clear flip flop on his campaign promise not to promote a social agenda. As students, we need to be worrying about our class work, not contemplating how our daily lives are going to change or whether our jobs, or even our lives are safe because of the negative attitude our government is taking.

In a time when steps should be taken to bar discrimination in all forms, embrace diversity, and provide equal benefits for all people, we feel like the leadership in Virginia has taken a huge step backwards with these actions. And these actions are being watched closely by those in Virginia and beyond. Such blatant targeting of a minority group has no place in Virginia, or anywhere for that matter. Virginia is already an unfriendly place for LGBTQ individuals, with McDonnell's removal of sexual orientation protections with his executive order (reversing the order made by former governors Kaine and Warner) to the controversial Marshall-Newman Amendment, which defines marriage in the state of Virginia as being between a man and a woman. This act by Attorney General Cuccinelli makes Virginia an even more hostile place to live and work.

Yes, yes it does. What does it say to all of the employees who came out of the closet during the tenures of Govs. Kaine and Warner, knowing it was safe to do so on the job, free of fear of a superior targeting them because of their sexual orientation?

You cannot unring the bell. The closet door cannot be fixed once it's kicked off of hinges. Virginia's AG has just told the homophobes to get out the torches and pitchforks.

These employees on state campuses are now sitting ducks for any bigoted jackass that wants to have free rein to place them on the guillotine with AG Cuccinelli and Gov. McDonnell ready to pull the release, smiling as the blade comes down, making the Commonwealth safe for heterosexuals again.

Who else is to blame when the guillotine falls?

The independent and progressive voters who chose to stay home when it was clear McDonnell was ahead.

The independents lured by McDonnell's "jobs" messaging, when it was clear he had a grade A wingnut social conservative background.

BET co-founder, billionaire Sheila Johnson, who endorsed McDonnell, opened her wallet and continued the jobs messaging on his behalf:

We need bold and innovative leadership to move our state forward and that's why I've chosen to support Bob McDonnell for Governor.  He has shown me that he has the right vision and the executive leadership skills that will guide Virginia through these challenging times.

Would Sheila Johnson care to say anything about this latest "jobs messaging" coming from the McDonnell administration that will cost the jobs of LGBT employees?

Virginia is for lovers. I predict these "lovers" in government will be seen in court soon.