The Herald reported Feb. 25 that Health Services plans to implement several new measures in order to be more welcoming to transgender students. These steps include training caregivers and staff on transgender issues, changing forms and signs to reflect the range of gender identities and allowing students to state a different name or pronoun than is listed on their medical forms. We support these efforts and we are glad to see that Health Services is trying to be as inclusive as possible.
These sorts of initiatives are important not just because they improve the experiences of students here at Brown, but also because they set a positive example for other institutions and policymakers. Many critics of equality for gender and sexual minorities speak as if giving these individuals rights and protections is in some way socially destructive. They're just wrong. And not surprisingly, since The Herald's report two weeks ago, life at Brown has gone on just fine.
It's highly regrettable when others choose not to go the full distance in making all individuals feel accepted, but it's downright reprehensible when public officials go out of their way to make life more difficult for marginalized groups. That's why we're outraged at Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who last week sent a letter to the state's public universities telling them to end policies that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
According to Cuccinelli, only Virginia's General Assembly has the authority to extend legally enforceable protections to certain classes of citizens. It hasn't, so universities cannot, Cuccinelli claims. But the University of Virginia, for instance, has included sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy since 1991.
So why is the recently elected Cuccinelli making such a fuss all of the sudden? A statement he made five months ago while campaigning offers a pretty good clue — and undercuts any credibility he might have had in claiming he's just enforcing the law.
"Homosexual acts are wrong. They're intrinsically wrong," Cuccinelli said. "And I think in a natural law based country it's appropriate to have policies that reflect that."
So while Cuccinelli now wants to be thought of as a principled conservative defending the prerogatives of the democratically elected legislature, it's clear he is just a bigot intent on using his authority as attorney general to do a little social engineering.
Cuccinelli apparently has not been persuaded by the basic ideas of fairness and privacy that justify equal treatment of gender and sexual minorities. Still, we're fairly confident that the 41-year-old will recant these views at some point in his lifetime. If he's concerned about his political viability, he will eventually be forced to take note of the fact that 58 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 34 support legalizing same-sex marriage, according to a CNN poll conducted last year. If he is concerned about his social acceptability, he will want to keep in mind that roughly half of all Americans report having a close friend or relative who is gay.
Unfortunately, the state of Virginia is stuck with an attorney general whose views are backwards and whose methods are frighteningly aggressive. We can only express solidarity with the LGBTQ students, faculty and employees at Virginia's universities, who will actually have to deal with the direct effects of Cuccinelli's willingness to permit discrimination and oppression.
Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.