The new governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell, (photo at right), issued his own directive, pointing out that public schools and universities answer to the governor, and not to the state attorney general. McConnell, who like Cuccinelli, is also a Republican, was Virginia's previous attorney general.
In his slap-down of his successor, McDonnell issued an executive order mandating that non-discrimination protections for gay people fall within the meaning of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and therefore trump the flawed Virginia statute cited by Cuccinelli that excludes gay people. McDonnell's executive order stated:
The Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits discrimination without a rational basis against any class of persons. Discrimination based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation or parental status violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, discrimination against enumerated classes of persons set forth in the Virginia Human Rights Act or discrimination against any class of persons without a rational basis is prohibited.
Consistent with state and federal law, and the Virginia and United States Constitutions, I hereby direct that the hiring, promotion, compensation, treatment, discipline, and termination of state employees shall be based on an individual’s job qualifications, merit and performance.
To read the full text of McDonnell's executive order, click HERE.
Two days ago I sharply criticized Cuccinelli. Today I applaud our governor for his swift, courageous and forthright action.
Meanwhile, John Casteen, the president of the University of Virginia, wrote a letter to the University community underlining his support for the governor's action and reiterating that the protections for gay people at the University remain in full force.
This directive's eloquence and clarity set it apart from many policy statements that come from all sorts of sources. Perhaps needless to say, I am personally grateful to the Governor for it. This had become an uncommonly troubling issue, one that cuts to the core of our common claims to the most fundamental kinds of personal security under the rule of law. Discussion will undoubtedly continue, as it should in a free society that thrives on open discourse. But as rightly alarmed as many of us and I myself were by last week's Attorney General's letter, I was struck through the week by the wisdom and dignity of the discussion that occurred. Let us hope that the subsequent discussion will rise to the level of the model struck in the directive.
To read the full text of Casteen's letter, click HERE.
This may seem like a great deal of angst and heated effort which, in the end, leaves us with the status quo. That is partly true. But this episode is a reminder that the attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of this state, has no regard for protecting the rights of gay people to earn a living and get an education. Forgive me if my guard remains up. This is no time to be complacent about protecting the rights of all people to live as God created them.