Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), the state Republican Party’s apparent choice for governor in 2013, claims he is “best known for his efforts to preserve liberty and defend the Constitution.” But in 2005, he used his position as a state Senator to try to censor a university sexual education event he felt was “pushing a pro-sex agenda and an anything goes agenda.”
In 2005, a pro-choice student group at George Mason University organized its inaugural “Sextravaganza” event — a campus sexuality and health fair aimed at teaching attendees about practicing safer sex and preventing unplanned pregnancy. For this event, the group organized 15 booths to provide “information on abstinence, condoms and self-help exams, as well as sexual orientation.” An array of views were presented to approximately 500 attendees: a minister from the Campus Catholic Ministry staffed one of the tables promoting abstinence and opposing abortion, while others promoted abortion rights and provided information about safer sex.
Sen. Cuccinelli, however, was outraged that his alma mater — a public state university — would host an event he believed “really just designed to push sex and sexual libertine behavior as far, fast and furiously as possibly.” Among Cuccinelli’s objections to the event:
- Upset that information about sexuality — other than abstinence only — would be presented to adult college students, he said it was symptomatic of the “moral depravity that has crept across this commonwealth and this country.”
- Upset that the event was sponsored by the Pro-Choice Patriots, he said, “They’re selling their product. They are selling abortions.“
- Upset that the GMU Pride Alliance presented information on sexual orientation, he said, “You can’t have safe homosexual sex. There is no such thing and yet one of the sponsoring groups is the homosexual group on campus.”
- Upset about an (ultimately scrapped) plan to raffle off sex toys at the fair, he said the event would “push every form of sexual promiscuity there is out there.”
- Upset that some of the advertising for the event was paid for out of student activity fees, he said, “”This is a how-to fun fair for sex. This isn’t education. This is pushing sex. It’s encouraging it… It doesn’t swell me with pride to see my alma mater putting on a soft porn show.”
- Upset that “aphrodisiacs” including Hershey’s Kisses, cucumber slices, strawberry Jello-O, and oyster crackers were given out at the event, Cuccinelli, Black, and three other Republican legislators wrote to the GMU’s president, “We appropriated $33.1 million in FY 2005 to treat STDs and AIDS. We are concerned that the frivolous manner in which human sexuality is being treated here with GMU approval is counter productive to the best interests of Virginia citizens.”
- Upset that presenters encouraged attendees to properly use condoms to “protect” themselves, he took use with that term, calling it “factually incorrect,” because “condoms do not stop HPV or Herpes.”
- Upset that attendees were invited to lobby for increased federal funding to fight sexually transmitted diseases, he dismissed the idea that “funding offers any kind of solution to the significant consequences of voluntary behavior.”
Cuccinelli maintained the event would disgrace the school, warning that Virginia government might need to “establish some statewide standards” to prevent this and similar events at other public colleges and universities. But the university’s administration emphatically rejected suggestions from Cuccinelli and then state-Delegate Dick Black (R) that they cancel the event. The chief of staff to the president of GMU called Sextravaganza 2005 “as well an organized and delivered student event as we’ve had on campus,” and it was repeated in future years.
How did Cuccinelli square his efforts to censor the event with his professed desire to “preserve liberty?” He told Bacon’s Rebellion, a Virginia blog, “in the realm of morality, freedom is not the right to do whatever you want (license), it is, in fact, the ability to do as you ought (self control).”