The letter sent by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli (left) to state college presidents and other officials Thursday drew swift criticism from Democrats and gay rights activists.
The Republican advised college governing boards to "take appropriate actions to bring their policies in conformance with the law."
The attorney general said his letter merely stated Virginia law, which prohibits discrimination because of "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, or disability," but makes no mention of sexual orientation.
Cuccinelli said the criticism was coming from people who have been frustrated in their attempts to change the law.
"None of them suggest our reading of the law is wrong. It's people who don't like the policy speaking up because it's their opportunity to go on the attack," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg said colleges are bound by U.S. Supreme Court decisions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
A spokesman for the Family Foundation of Virginia, which has opposed expanding state anti-discrimination policies to protect gays, said the criticism of Cuccinelli's action is unwarranted.
"My understanding is all he's done is essentially ask the universities to follow the law," spokesman Chris Freund said. "It's a little perplexing to see people respond the way they have."
This sort of thing seems completely unnecessary, fueled only by ill will. It will be interesting to see how the universities respond. I'm hoping to see more than a few student protests.