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Michigan employee with blog on gay student takes leave of absence

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Official explains gay student attacks
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: University of Michigan won't allow blogger on campus
  • Michigan assistant attorney general takes leave of absence
  • He's been under fire for blogging about gay college student
  • Attorney general previously defended Andrew Shirvell's right to blog on own time

(CNN) -- Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell -- who for nearly six months has blogged about an openly gay college student -- has taken a voluntary leave of absence, the state's attorney general's office confirmed to CNN Friday.

The office does not know the length of Shirvell's leave, but says that it will hold a disciplinary hearing upon his return.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Mike Cox defended his assistant's constitutional right to wage the internet campaign against Chris Armstrong, even though he said he considers Shirvell a "bully."

"Here in America, we have this thing called the First Amendment, which allows people to express what they think and engage in political and social speech," Cox told Anderson Cooper on CNN's "AC 360" on Wednesday night. "He's clearly a bully ... but is that protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? Yes."

"Mr. [Andrew] Shirvell is sort of a frontline grunt assistant prosecutor in my office," Cox said. "He does satisfactory work and off-hours, he's free to engage under both our civil service rules, Michigan Supreme Court rulings and the United States Supreme Court rule."

Video: AG: Shirvell's job is safe
Video: Blog targets gay college student
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But Gov. Jennifer Granholm disagreed. Late Thursday she tweeted, "If I was still attorney general and Andrew Shirvell worked for me, he would have already been fired."

For nearly six months, Shirvell has blogged about Armstrong, an openly gay student assembly president at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Shirvell has been banned from the Ann Arbor campus, said university spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham. The ban was in the form of a "trespass warning" issued by the university on September 14.

Shirvell launched his blog in late April using the online moniker "Concerned Michigan Alumnus."

"Welcome to 'Chris Armstrong Watch,' " Shirvell wrote in his inaugural blog post. "This is a site for concerned University of Michigan alumni, students and others who oppose the recent election of Chris Armstrong -- a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR -- as the new head of student government."

Among other things, Shirvell has published blog posts that accuse Armstrong of going back on a campaign promise he made to minority students; engaging in "flagrant sexual promiscuity" with another male member of the student government; sexually seducing and influencing "a previously conservative [male] student" so much so that the student, according to Shirvell, "morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda;" hosting a gay orgy in his dorm room in October 2009; and trying to recruit incoming first-year students "to join the homosexual 'lifestyle.' "

In a written statement from his office on Tuesday, Cox distanced his office from Shirvell's comments.

"Mr. Shirvell's personal opinions are his and his alone, and do not reflect the views of the Michigan Department of Attorney General," Cox said in the statement. "But his immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear."

Shirvell said he works on the blog during his off-hours.

On "AC 360" on Tuesday, Shirvell made no apologies for his blog postings, which include a picture of Armstrong with "Resign" written over his face. The same picture also had a swastika superimposed over a gay pride flag, with an arrow pointing toward Armstrong.

Shirvell acknowledged protesting outside of Armstrong's house and calling him "Satan's representative on the student assembly."

"I'm a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights," Shirvell told Cooper. "I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he's advancing a radical homosexual agenda."

Armstrong has supported gender-neutral housing at the university for transgender students who haven't had sexual reassignment surgery.

Armstrong told CNN he has hired an attorney and is pursuing legal action against Shirvell.

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