Virginia newspaper editor denounces anti-gay action by state's Attorney General

Falls Church, Va., March 9, 2010 /LGBT News - FCNP/ -- Nicholas F. Benton, the owner of an award-winning Northern Virginia newspaper, the Falls Church News-Press, who is also an area business leader and statewide gay rights activist, assailed yesterday the "unprovoked, inflammatory act of bigotry" by Virginia's new Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli addressed a letter to the state's colleges and universities last week advising them to remove any policy language protecting the rights of lesbians and gays.

Benton denounced Cuccinelli's action for not only stripping existing equal rights protections from gay and lesbians, but for its negative impact on economic development in the state, for its undercutting of civic efforts to embrace diversity, and for its contribution to a growing mood of hate, intimidation and violence being fueled by mouthpieces of the far right.

Benton, the founder and owner for 19 years of the Falls Church News-Press, has served 19 years on the board of directors of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and is also on the board of directors of the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club.

The following is Benton's statement:

"The unprovoked, inflammatory act of bigotry by the new Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli last week, in the form of a letter advising Virginia colleges and universities to remove language protecting lesbians and gays from discrimination, takes away existing protections from an embattled minority, and represents a profound threat to the Commonwealth in a number of important ways.

"First, it represents an effort to remove protections that currently exist for a minority that is well-known for its susceptibility to discrimination, hate and violent attacks, from elementary school playgrounds through adulthood.

"Second, it represents a major blow to Virginia's economic development efforts, including it is effort to secure the relocation of major corporations like Northrup-Grumman and other large business entities, because of the chilling effect Cuccinelli's action will have on the desire and willingness of those businesses and their employees to locate to the state.

"Third, it undermines the efforts of communities throughout the Commonwealth to foster a climate of friendship and concord in their populations by the public encouragement and embrace of diversity and affirmation of the equal rights of all their citizens.

"Fourth, it fuels a climate of intimidation and hate against minorities of all types in the state in a time when mouthpieces of the far right are causing such negative trends to grow, empowering bigots with a sense of entitlement to act out their hatred with impunity.

"I urge every fair-minded citizen, every civil libertarian, every elected official of any party, and every proponent of economic growth in Virginia, every advocate of civility, to go on record in strong opposition to the Attorney General's incendiary action and to affirm that every Virginian enjoys equal protection under the law.

"Wherever public resolutions or pronouncements can be enacted to this end by local jurisdictions, political action or religious groups, or business or other organizations, I urge this to be done with the sense of clarity and urgency it deserves."

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