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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for January, 2014

Cuccinelli declares a ban on gay tax returns

Timothy Kincaid

January 14th, 2014

The state of Virginia has conflicting law. On the one hand, the constitution of the state includes this language:

Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this Commonwealth and its political subdivisions. This Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage. Nor shall this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions create or recognize another union, partnership, or other legal status to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities, or effects of marriage.

On the other, like most states, Virginia tries to closely conform with Federal tax law. In general, states will start with the federally calculated taxable income and make such revisions and adjustments as are necessary to tweak for local differences.

And the Federal Government now recognizes legal same-sex marriages for federal tax purposes, even if the couple is residing in a state, like Virginia, which does not recognize same-sex marriages. So there’s a conflict.

Some states have resolved this by taking a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach. They work under the logic that they don’t recognize Sally and Sue as married. But if the Federal Government, for it’s own reasons, has decided to act as though Sally and Sue have a ‘married’ filing status (though, in our non-recognition, we have no idea why), then those two single gals should file their state taxes using the same filing that the Feds (for some unrecognized reason) requires of them.

But failed gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli (R), certainly has no desire for his state to allow gay people the same ‘lower taxes’ rights that he champions for heterosexuals. Cuccinelli is one of those ‘small government conservatives’ who believes that the role of government is to monitor and restrict the minutia of your sex life.

And on his last day serving as the Attorney General of the state, he issued an opinion as to the legality of allowing the State Department of Revenue to follow the lead of the Internal Revenue Service:

It is my opinion that a Governor may not direct or require any agency of state government to allow same-sex couples to receive joint marital status for Virginia income tax returns. Such a directive would represent an attempt to exercise legislative powers in violation of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers and would also violate the express terms of Article I, § 15-A of the Virginia Constitution.

Because, you know, Teh Ghey!

What’s the Difference Between Boycotting and Bullying Again?

Jim Burroway

April 29th, 2011

Focus On the Family tried to define the difference in the context over the law firm of King & Spalding’s refusal to take up the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act on behalf of the GOP-led House of Representatives. K&S backed out, citing what they called an “inadequate” vetting process for taking the case in the first place. One likely sticking points with the firm was may have been the blanket gag order imposed on all K&S employees barring all advocacy for DOMA’s legislative repeal, a provision which not only would have infringed upon K&S employees First Amendment rights, but would likely have been illegal in several states in which K&S operates.

Focus On the Family ignores that, and instead latches onto to a bragging press release from the Human Rights Campaign. HRC boasted that they had contacted several of K&S’s clients:

[HRC spokesman Fred] Sainz said his group did not ask any of the firm’s clients to drop the firm in retaliation for taking the case, as is being assumed by conservatives who are alleging an untoward pressure campaign. Rather, he said, his group informed the firm’s clients that taking the case was out of sync with King and Spalding’s commitment to diversity, which it proudly advertises on its Web site.

One of K&S’s clients, Coca-Cola, reportedly nudged K&S pointing out that K&S’s position was contrary to Coca-Cola’s “ long public history of support for equality and diversity.” K&S was also facing a growing backlash among its own employees. Focus on the Family’s Bruce Hausknecht is blind to all that, latching instead onto HRC’s boast as a clear example of “Bullying, Strong-arming, Veiled Threats, etc.”

Threats of what? You may well ask. As far as anyone can tell, the threat would be, at most, the threat of a boycott against either K&S itself, or against its clients. Threatening boycotts, according to Hausknecht, is bullying, even though Focus On the Family has threatened boycotts on any number of occasions — although, to be fair, not nearly as often as the American Family Association. But okay. Threats of boycotts is now bullying. Fine.

Now that K&S has dropped the DOMA case, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s has barred the law firm from handling any business on behalf of the commonwealth. It’s not clear that K&S is actually handling any cases on Virginia’s behalf – Cuccinelli appears uncertain and asks K&S (PDF: 176KB/2 pages) to check their records and submit any final bills accordingly — but K&S definitely will not receive any business from Virginia in the future. Cuccinelli harrumphs with a final sign-off: “For future reference, your firm is not welcome to re-apply for special counsel status at any time as long as I am the Attorney General of Virginia.”

Hausknecht cheers this act of bullying, strong-arming, and not-so-veiled threats as an act worthy of his “straight-talkin’ award.” At least I assume Hausknecht — ever the straight-takin’ guy — considers Cuccinelli’s act as an example of  bullying, strong-arming, and not-so-veiled threats. Because if he doesn’t, then his distinction between boycotting and bullying rests solely on the outcome of the act, and not the action itself. And that would also mean that threatening to with draw business (what he calls ”bullying” even though no harm is actually done) is somehow worse than actually withdrawing business from K&S (where economic harm is actually done, but somehow that’s not bullying).

Come to think of it, that kind of twisted thinking does go along way toward explaining Focus On the Family’s consistent opposition to anti-bullying measures in schools. Maybe they only object to the threats, and not to the punches.

VA Gov Issues Non-Reversing “Reversal” on Anti-Discrimination Ban

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2010

One week after Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) ordered state universities to drop sexual orientation from their nondiscrimination policies, and nearly a month after Gov. Robert F. McDonnell signed an executive order dropping sexual orientation from the state’s anti-discrimination policies, Gov. McDonnell has now reversed his position, but not his executive order.

Gov. McDonnell’s new directive states:

We will not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation or any other basis that’s outlawed under state or federal law or the Constitution, and if it is reported, then I will take action, from reprimand to termination, to make sure that does not occur. I believe this properly takes care of it and assures the good people of Virginia that we will absolutely not have discrimination in this state.”

Gov. McDonnell’s executive order last month dropping sexual orientation from the state’s nondiscrimination policies has the effect of law among state employees, including state universities. But Gov. McDonnell’s new directive does not. It merely states the formal position of the governor himself. This gives the Attorney General all the legal maneuvering room he needs to issue this statement “applauding” the governor’s directive:

“I will remain in contact with the Governor and continue to work with him on issues important to Virginians,” Cuccinelli’s statement continued. “I expect Virginia’s state employees to follow all state and federal anti-discrimination laws and will enforce Virginia’s laws to the fullest extent.”

In other words, Cuccinelli recognizes that the governor’s latest statement does not have the force of law, but merely “sets the tone.” As Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) said, McDonnell’s directive carries no force and is no more than a “press release with fluff around it.”

There is some speculation that this fig leaf was put in place to try to impress the defense giant Northrop Grumman, which is considering moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington, D.C. area. Maryland, Virginia and the District are actively competing to win the company’s favor. Northrop Grumman enjoys a 100% rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Among the many considerations that Northrop is facing is that Maryland’s policies are more in line with the company’s own policies. Says Maryland State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery):

Here in Maryland, we value our gay and lesbian citizens as part of a diverse population that makes the state strong. Virginia is doing the opposite and letting its LGBT citizens — and those considering whether to move and work there — know that they and their families are unwelcome second-class citizens. And they are counting on corporations like yours not to care.

Indeed, while there are efforts in Virginia’s legislature to pass a nonbinding resolution expressing the opinion that Virginia “maintains an ecumenical atmosphere in its sexual orientation hiring policies in the private and public workforce,” that resolution would not have an effect on Virginia’s nondiscrimination law. And even that nonbinding statement, which passed in Virginia’s Senate as part of a package of incentives intended to lure Northrop and other employers, is being stymied in Virginia’s lower House.

VA AG Cuccinelli to universities: “you must allow discrimination against gays”

Timothy Kincaid

March 5th, 2010

Several colleges and universities in Virginia have policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has a unique interpretation of law: unless you are specifically instructed by the legislature to avoid discrimination against a group, you cannot voluntarily choose to do so (Washington Post):

“It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘gender expression,’ or like classification as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,” he wrote.

But is this the same as, “you must allow discrimination against gays?” In Virginia, yes.

Currently the political and cultural attitude of this state are extremely hostile to gay residents and visitors. And even in the most encouraging of states, there will be administrators or teachers who believe that their own personal religious beliefs entitle them to mistreat others.

There is no question whatsoever that there will either be deans who make or deny promotions based on sexual orientation, teachers who will assign work that is intended to advance an anti-gay viewpoint, or other school based preferences and punishments that are doled out based on anti-gay animus. It is almost a certainty that administrators will deny housing, funded organizations will deny membership, and fraternal organizations will throw parties with themes that mock gay students.

And this will increase. Because statements like those of Cuccinelli not only give permission for anti-gay discrimination, they encourage such behavior and provide it with the imprimatur of the state. And the educational institutions will be powerless to oppose such actions.

This decision of Cuccinelli does not stand alone.

Last month, newly elected Governor Bob McDonnell (R) signed an executive order that removed non-discrimination policies for gay state employees. He argued, similarly to Cuccinelli, that unless gay folk were specifically protected by the legislature then he had no “authority” to include them.

These arguments are specious. Protections are not always limited to those itemized, but can be (and have been for decades) administered where they were needed.

These acts are not based on principle, but prejudice. I have little hesitation in asserting that McDonnell and Cuccinelli oppose non-discrimination policies against gay people primarily because their sympathies lie with those who wish to to discriminate.

Virginia is a very hostile state, at present. Gay people, and their friends, family, coworkers, and those who love them, should avoid setting foot in the state whenever possible.