Attorney General Cuccenelli’s advice aside, the board overseeing the Department of Juvenile Justice has voted to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation at its facilities.
The Board included protections in revisions to their policy last year, but removed them recently upon advice from the Attorney General’s Office citing that they did not have the legal authority to protect sexual orientation.
“We provide legal advice to our clients based on Virginia and applicable federal law,” said attorney general spokesman Brian Gottstein. “It is up to them whether or not they take that advice.”
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, an attorney for the gay rights group Equality Virginia, said she was encouraged that the board stood its ground. She questioned the motives of the Attorney General’s Office, which under Republican Ken Cuccinelli has issued similar advice to public colleges and to the state agency that manages foster children, which led its board to stripping out anti-discrimination language against gays.
“In this case, the board is trying to implement constitutional and federal statutory requirements and they’re being told they can’t,” Gastanaga said. “And they’re being told they can’t for reasons that are political, not legal and not moral and not ethical.”
Equality Virginia presented a testimony yesterday reminding the board that they have sole legal authority to approve rules for their department. They had requested that the board restore the protections that were in place prior to the executive review.
According to James Parrish, EV’s executive director, it’s difficult to know what happened to remove the protections because much of the decision making had not been public.
“It is clear from the agency background document that the Attorney General and the Governor appear, once again, to have put their brand of perceived political correctness above the safety of our children.” “It is time for this to stop, Parrish added. “Our children need and deserve protection against discrimination and harassment, especially when they are held in state custody with no avenue of escape or safe harbor from abuse.”