Herring says school boards can include sexual orientiation in anti-bias policies

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Source - Richmond Times Dispatch

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has issued an opinion that says local school boards have the authority to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their anti-discrimination policies.

Herring, a Democrat, says it is a “power fairly implied from the express grant of authority” to local school boards in the Virginia Constitution and state law.

Herring’s opinion counters a 2002 opinion by then-Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, a Republican. That opinion found that school boards did not have the authority to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Fairfax County School Board asked for Kilgore’s opinion in 2002, then decided not to impose a nondiscrimination policy on sexual orientation. After U.S. courts struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, the Fairfax board adopted such a policy in November.

State Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, requested the opinion by Herring.

Herring said in a statement: “Every Virginian has the right to live, learn and work without fear of discrimination. That’s a Virginia value, and one that we must guard even more carefully when it comes to our children.”

Herring, who is likely to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2017, drew national notice when he declared in January 2014 that he would not defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“The attorney general is desperately trying to secure his party’s base for his campaign for governor,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.

“These actions where he disregards the law of Virginia show that he’s put his personal agenda above all else.”

On Thursday, Herring also filed an amicus brief in the same-sex marriage cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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