March 25, 2010 | by Harley Dennett
Cuccinelli dogged by protests at George Mason

Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette joined other local officials and George Mason University students Tuesday to protest the appearance of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli attracted 50 to 60 protesters when he appeared Tuesday at George Mason University — one day ahead of the college’s decision on whether it would follow his advice and remove its LGBT anti-discrimination policies.

State Dels. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), Robert Brink (D-Arlington) and Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette joined students and alumni from the university’s law school in condemning Cuccinelli’s efforts to outlaw LGBT anti-discrimination policies and block federal health care reform.

“Ken Cuccinelli promised to impartially carry out his role as attorney general,” Ebbin told the crowd. “He promised us not to impose his personal agenda on the commonwealth. When Cuccinelli breaks those promises we will call him out. A bigot is a bigot is a bigot.”

Ebbin said Cuccinelli wasn’t spending time on the office’s responsibilities, such as protecting Virginians from criminals, identity theft and fraud.

“To our attorney general, words like toleration and diversity are dirty words. He prefers words like discrimination and persecution. But he’s wrong. Hate is not a Virginian value — it’s not an educational value.”

Inside the university, Cuccinelli told law students that his March 4 letter to universities describing LGBT anti-discrimination policies as unlawful was not an invitation to discriminate.

Third year law student Michael Misiewicz asked if Gov. Bob McDonnell’s subsequent executive directive, which was purported to restore some anti-discrimination protections to LGBT state employees, changed the situation. Cuccinelli said it did not.

The executive directive was “an invention by the governor,” Cuccinelli told the students, bearing “no legal force or effect” and its weight would have to be measured by the courts.

Misiewicz said he came to hear Cuccinelli because he wanted the attorney general to be held accountable for his policies face to face, but was unconvinced by the legal basis the attorney relied upon, that LGBT protections were currently federal domain.

“It would hurt this school [if it chose to repeal LGBT protections],” Misiewicz said. “It would detract the best students who happen to be LGBT. … This school has opened a lot of doors for me, but it would really strip future LGBT students of that opportunity to connect and raise George Mason’s profile.”

“George Mason already has a reputation for being very conservative. If we lost this, it would be that much worse.”

Cuccinelli said his own letter did not hold as much legal weight as a more detailed official opinion, but was intended as advice to schools to repeal LGBT protections.

The attorney general noted that he personally opposes protections based on sexual orientation, but he would uphold them if passed by the General Assembly next year.

The state’s 2010 legislative session ended last week with the shelving of a bill that could have restored LGBT protections for state employees. The bill passed the Senate but died in the House General Laws committee.

In Maryland, that state’s legislature has until Monday to advance de facto parent and family leave entitlement laws that would include same-sex families.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Equality Maryland’s executive director, urged supporters to reach out to lawmakers before the crossover deadline. Bills must pass at least one chamber before the deadline to advance this session.

Some lawmakers opposed to the state’s recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages also are attempting to pass a moratorium on such recognition, and face a similar Monday deadline to advance that effort.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s newly recognized married same-sex couples have yet to be issued official advice on whether to file joint tax returns this year. With the filing deadline of April 15 looming, the state comptroller’s office told DC Agenda the issue was still being investigated.

“We are still reviewing the tax implication of same-sex marriage,” said Caron Brace, an office spokesperson. “Comptroller Peter Franchot believes that a comprehensive review of tax law should be thorough and thoughtful and no artificial deadline unless required by legislation.”

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