‘Virginia is for all lovers’: Protesters unite at Mason Law School to attest Attorney General Cuccinelli’s proposed change to university discrimination policies

by   Posted on March 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized

By Emily Sharrer, Editor-in-Chief

Despite cold temperatures and sporadic rain, a combination of students, faculty and staff of George Mason University’s law school, passersby and members of Pride Alliance gathered on Tuesday to protest Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s visit to the George Mason School of Law in Arlington.

The demonstration was in response to Cuccinelli’s controversial letter, leaked earlier this month, in which the attorney general advised state institutions to remove ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’ from the language of their nondiscrimination policies on the basis of current Virginia state law as determined by the General Assembly. [Student Media recently received an op-ed written by the attorney general defending his position.]

About 65 protesters were present for the protest and rally. Many of them held signs, some of which read: “VA is for all lovers,” “hate is not a family value” and “who remembers Matthew Shepard?”

“I felt good about it,” said protest organizer Cathryn “Kate” Oakley, a second year law student and president of the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Law Association (GALLA) at Mason’s law school. “I felt that there was a really good amount of support from the community.”

Speakers for the protest included Pride Alliance Adviser Ric Chollar, Robert Pilaud, current secretary of the Lambda Alumni Chapter of the George Mason University Alumni Association, Arlington School Board member Abby Raphael, Del. Bob Brink, D-Arlington, Del. Adam Ebbin, D-Fairfax and Arlington County Chairman Jay Fisette.

During their speeches, speakers referred to Cuccinelli as “an embarrassment to Virginia,” “out of touch with the realities of the 21st century” and a “bigot,” criticizing the legality and fairness of the attorney general’s statements.

“He’s wrong on the law,” said Raphael, who is also an alum of the University of Virginia School of Law. “The fact is they don’t need to change the law for public colleges and universities to be able to continue to include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination policies.” Various legal opinions, some with similar conclusions, have been released in the weeks since the letter went public.

According to Richard Kelsey, the School of Law’s assistant dean for management and planning, it is a Mason School of Law tradition to invite the Attorney General of Virginia to speak. Cuccinelli, an alum of both Mason’s graduate program and the university’s law school, was invited to speak shortly after he was elected last fall and prior to the controversial statements, which were leaked to the public about two weeks ago.

Entry to the event was limited to students with a valid Mason Law I.D., but following the event, first year Mason Law students Brajan Kola, Ben Sperry and Alex Payne said Cuccinelli did address the controversy over his statements.

“How I believe he put it [is] that [some of the public] are misunderstanding the contents of his letter. He actually was simply advising the universities about the law as it stands now and was not suggesting any maneuver to expand or change the definition. He was simply telling them, ‘this is the law,’” said Kola.

“He also said that the letter did not contain legal discourse – it was not binding – and it was merely advice…And it was under his duties to give such advice when asked,” added Payne. “He just said that he understands the topic is very sensitive, but they are misunderstanding what he was saying.”

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