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What Virginia's opinion on gay protections means

Wednesday, March 10, 2010; A22

Regarding the March 6 front-page article "Attorney general asks colleges to end policies that shield gays":

When I applied to the University of Virginia three years ago, I cautiously wrote on my entrance essay about the most formative experience in my life: coming out as a gay teenager. While I knew I was taking a risk, I felt reassured by the fact that the University of Virginia included sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy. But now Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has made it very clear that he hopes Virginia universities will abolish that protection.

According to The Post, Christopher Freund, a spokesman for the Family Foundation, said, "I find it hard to believe that this would be the final straw in whether or not someone's going to come to Virginia's universities." Believe it. I can say without a shred of doubt that if I had no protection as a sexual minority, I would not be attending U-Va. as a third-year student.

If Mr. Cuccinelli's advice is enforced, thousands of the brightest minds across Virginia will no longer be free to express their true identities for fear of being removed from their universities solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Chris Trizna, Charlottesville

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's recent opinion argues that state colleges cannot include gays and lesbians in their nondiscrimination policies because the General Assembly has explicitly mandated protection only for "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability." However, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech and William and Mary all protect sexual orientation as well as veteran status and political views in their nondiscrimination policies.

If Mr. Cuccinelli's legal opinion is accepted, Virginia's public universities also are obligated to rescind their protections of veterans and people of all political persuasions.

Burke Thomas, Blacksburg

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II seems to have misinterpreted Virginia state schools' nondiscrimination policy as a form of "gay protection." The policy that Mr. Cuccinelli dislikes prohibits discrimination against anyone on the basis of his or her sexual orientation, not just gay people.

Would the attorney general stick to his guns if the commonwealth's public colleges and universities responded by banning straight people from hiring and admission? Under his interpretation of the law, the schools would be within their rights to do so.

Nicholas Marritz, Seattle

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