Since taking office, Virginia Republicans Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli have quickly made clear that they plan to insert their far-right ideologies into state policies. McDonnell, for example, controversially issued an executive order in February that stripped sexual orientation out of an executive order banning discrimination in state hiring. Cuccinelli recently filed a petition claiming that global warming is “unverifiable and doctored” science, sued the federal government to stop health care reform, and instructed state colleges to stop protecting LGBT students from discrimination.
What’s been encouraging, however, is Virginia’s response to these far-right edicts. Citizens opposed to McDonnell and Cuccinelli’s attempts to impose their ideology on the state are increasingly speaking up and refusing to go along with the new policies:
— The Virginia Board of Corrections yesterday “adopted a resolution reaffirming a nondiscrimination policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, overruling concerns expressed by a representative from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office.” The board, whose members were appointed by previous Democratic governors, said that the department shall “make all employment decisions based on one’s merits and qualifications and specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, retaliation, age, political affiliation, sexual orientation, veteran status, and person with disabilities, except when age or sex is a bona fide occupational qualification.”
— Yesterday, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board issued “a symbolic rebuke” of Cuccinelli’s plan to challenge the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. “The seven-member, governor-appointed citizen board directed its chairman, Hullihen Moore, to tell the EPA that Cuccinelli is not acting on their behalf. The move holds no legal ground.” The members of the board were appointed by former governor Tim Kaine.
— On Wednesday, the George Mason University Board of Visitors met to discuss its response to Cuccinelli’s letter telling colleges and universities that they do not have authority to include ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The board, however, adopted a resolution reaffirming their existing policy, which does include such protections.
— After receiving Cuccinelli’s letter, William & Mary President Taylor Reveley sent a message to the campus community saying that although its Board of Visitors needed to review Cuccinelli’s views, “let’s be clear that William & Mary neither discriminates against people nor tolerates discrimination on our campus. … Those of us at W&M insist that members of our campus community be people of integrity who have both the capacity to meet their responsibilities to the university and the willingness to engage others with civility and respect. We do not insist, however, that members of our community possess any other particular characteristics, whether denominated in race, religion, nationality, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other of the myriad personal characteristics that differentiate human beings.”
— Around 250 people showed up to a Virginia Commonwealth University forum following Cuccinelli’s letter on discrimination. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that most of the attendees urged administrators “to take a strong stand against” the attorney general’s new policy, citing the detrimental affect removing LGBT protections would have on hiring practices and student retention.
— Scientists at the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Sciences, which runs the Virginia Climatology Office, have spoken out against the right-wing petition — joined by Cuccinelli — challenging the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public. They have said that Cuccinelli’s extreme views are without merit, and they are “confident” of the facts of manmade global warming.
Earlier this month, in an effort to quell the “growing uproar” in the state over the new policies, McDonnell issued a new directive to the state’s 102,000 employees “that prohibits discrimination in the state workforce, including on the basis of sexual orientation, and warns he will reprimand or fire anyone who engages in it.” While the directive took “a strong stand against discrimination,” it doesn’t carry the full weight of an executive order, and McDonnell “opted not to push legislation that would produce a similar effect.”