Civil liberties group says Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; is prepared to offer legal representation to victimsRichmond, VA—The ACLU of Virginia is sending letters to all public university presidents warning them against taking any action that would permit discrimination against gay and lesbian employees or students. According to the ACLU, gays and lesbians are protected against governmental discrimination by the U.S. Constitution.
The letter, from ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg, is intended to counteract a March 4 letter from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli informing state universities that their non-discrimination policies as applied to gays and lesbians are not authorized by state law and must be rescinded.
“Cuccinelli’s letter is an affront to anyone who stands for the principle of equal protection under the law,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “Regardless of state law or policy, not only should universities prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but they are required to do so under the U.S. Constitution.”
“If Ken Cuccinelli is trying to say that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply in Virginia,” added Willis, “his first significant act as Attorney General is a giant step backwards and a huge embarrassment for the state.”
Cuccinelli’s letter is an unfortunate companion to Governor Bob McDonnell’s recent decision to remove protections for gays and lesbians employed by the state from an executive order that had been issued by the two previous Virginia governors.
According to Glenberg’s letter, the United States Supreme Court has twice struck down laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians. Since that time federal courts have repeatedly held that public employers may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“The ACLU is prepared to provide legal representation to any public university employee or student who is a victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation,” said Willis.
Glenberg’s letter is available online at: http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/20100305CollegeNonDiscrimLtr.pdf
Cuccinelli’s letter can be found online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/metro/Cuccinelli.pdf.
Contact: Kent Willis (office) 804/644-8022