Virginia Republicans suddenly support gay judge
January 15th, 2013
Poor Belshazzar could be forgiven for not reading the handwriting on the wall considering how fast it’s been scribbling. I swear I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republican Party sent out a press release saying, “Hey, about that marriage thing, you knew we were kidding, right? I mean c’mon it was just a joke. Ha ha. Dude, I mean seriously, of course we support you.”
Well, okay maybe that would surprise me. But not much more than what’s happening in Virginia.
It seems that a Mr. Tracy Thorne-Begland was nominated as a General District Court judge. True, it’s more like People’s Court than Supreme Court, but last year the legislature just wasn’t having it.
Not cuz he’s gay, hrmph mutter mumble, but because he’s one of those ‘openly aggressively gay’ gays and had gone on TV as a Navy pilot opposing DADT. And that was violating military policy and breaking the law and so such.
Ah, but that was last year. And since then it seems they’ve seen the hand writing on the wall. And it was writing “mene mene of you are going to lose elections if you don’t drop the anti-gay crap”. So this year they have a whole new tune.
In the interim Thorne-Begland got a temporary appointment and, by golly it turns out that all his confirmation problems turned out to be a huge comical misunderstanding. (WaPo)
Republican leaders, who are hoping to de-emphasize some of the social issues that dominated the previous session, said they were changing course in this case because they had received more information. Morris said he initially believed that Thorne-Begland had violated Navy regulations by coming out on national television but later concluded that he had not because he was not in uniform on TV.
Well golly gee, I’m awfully glad that was all cleared up. For a moment there I thought it might have something to do with obvious political trends or the fact that Corporate America had a lil’ chat about what is good for business.
And so today a joint House and Senate panel voted unanimously to advance his approval to the floor.
“I share with you a high degree of comfort you will be certified and elected on the Senate side,” Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) told Thorne-Begland on Monday.
Ya think so, Mr. Majority Leader? Well, I tekel u-pharsin word for that.
Marriage in the non-battle states
October 17th, 2012
Back in September, the Washington Post polled swing states Ohio, Florida, and Virginia about the upcoming presidential election. A number of other issues were polled, including this question:
31. (AMONG REGISTERED VOTERS) Do you think it should be LEGAL or ILLEGAL for gay and lesbian couples to get married?
Legal (strongly) 35%
Legal (somewhat) 19%
Illegal (somewhat) 7%
Illegal (strongly) 26%
No Opinion 13%
Legal (strongly) 36%
Legal (somewhat) 17%
Illegal (somewhat) 7%
Illegal (strongly) 30%
No Opinion 10%
Legal (strongly) 33%
Legal (somewhat) 16%
Illegal (somewhat) 8%
Illegal (strongly) 32%
No Opinion 12%
Because these (and other) states already have anti-gay marriage bans in their constitution, they can shift away from the center of our attention. But with numbers like these, it will not be long before we will again be looking at Florida and Ohio and even Virginia. But (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t beat us to it) the next time will be our own efforts to have those constitutional blights removed.
[NOTE: revised to correct for formatting restrictions]
Battered and Bruised
March 7th, 2012
Romney hangs in there again like a punch-drunk fighter staggering toward the finish of the sixth round (ooh look at me, I’m using a sports metaphor), picking up wins in six of the states up for grabs yesterday including a very hotly contested Ohio, where Santorum very nearly pulled off an upset. Romney did best in his home state of Massachusetts, and he did well in neighboring Vermont. He also did very well in the Idaho caucuses, where 23% of spudsters are fellow Mormons. There were no exit polls in Idaho, but in Arizona where Mormons made up 14% of the vote, they broke 96-4 for Romney on Feb 28.
Romney also did very well where he had very little actual competitors (Virginia, where Santorum and Gingrich weren’t on the ballot). Which is to say that he has done very well where he had the home field advantage (as did Gingrich) or where his most potent opponent was missing. Or Alaska.
Which goes to day that Romney is still having trouble closing the deal with Santorum racking up rack up wins in the more conservative middle bits of the continent. In Oklahoma, Santorum’s first place finish came in spite of Sen. Tom Coburn’s endorsement of Romney, while Romney actually came in third in North Dakota and just barely avoided that same fate in Oklahoma. And in Ohio, where Romney poured massive amounts of dollars into the race, he only managed to pull out a 1% win over Santorum in the bellwether state. But even there, he he lost among Evangelical, blue collar and rural voters, but won among those who were 50 and older.
But here’s the stat I find most telling: When Ohio voters were asked whether they’d support Romney in the general election regardless of who they voted for in the primary, 36% said they would not be satisfied with a Romney candidacy, versus 33% who said they’d reject a Santorum candidacy. In other words, Ohio Republicans are less willing to settle for Romney than Santorum.
But this is a race for delegates, not popular votes. And whatever weaknesses that exist in Romney’s popular support within the GOP, he’s still by far the frontrunner in the delegate race according to CNN’s count, with more delegates than his opponents combined. But at only about half way through the primaries, Romney’s still a long way from the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination. Kansas, US Virgin Islands and Guam hold caucuses next week, followed by primaries in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii the week after that. Which means that for Romney, the long slog continues. But for the other candidates in the field, the slog is even longer.
The idea behind Super Tuesday was to bring the nomination process into clearer focus. The only thing made clear yesterday is that GOP voters would still prefer another candidates. But that’s not the choice available to them. Which means that Romney will almost certainly be the nominee when all is said and done, but what is said and done before then will continue to be the story. As Ezra Klein at the Washington Post put it, “For three guys who profess to not like the media very much, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich are really making all our dreams of a long, unpredictable primary come true.”
Again anti-gays blindly and gleefully shoot themselves in the foot
February 9th, 2012
Anti-gay activists in Virginia are dancing with delight. They stood up to Teh HomoSEXshull Agenduh and showed them librulls that they don’t cotton to Teh Ghey so much in the Old Dominion State. The Virginia Senate Republicans, who have a strong majority in that red red state, just passed a bill allowing adoption agencies to deny access to gay couples or individuals on religious grounds.
Except, of course, they couldn’t just say “No gays! We hate ‘em” so they couched their bill in language of “religious freedom”. And in their arrogance, they never stopped to consider how else this bill could be used. Look at the wording:
No private child-placing agency shall be required to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would conflict with the religious tenets of any sponsor of the agency or other organization or institution with which the child-placing agency is affiliated or associated. The Commissioner shall not deny an application for an initial license or renewal of a license or revoke the license of a private child-placing agency solely on the grounds that the agency has refused to consider or consent to any placement of a child for foster care or adoption in such cases. Refusal of a private child-placing agency to consider or consent to any placement of a child pursuant to this section shall not form the basis of any claim for damages. [emphasis added]
Now I’m sure that all those good ol’ Southern Baptist boys thought that this gave them the power to discriminate. It did. And further more, with the people’s money. Praise Jesus*
But it also empowered others to find that certain cultural views are repressive and dangerous to children and that their faith prohibits the exposure of children to that element. For example, Quakers may find that military families are unfit based on their religious beliefs. Atheists affiliated with an established freethinkers organization could point to the tenets of their organization and decide that church goers rely on superstition and bronze age notions that hinder a child’s development. And we know that Mormons will be automatically disqualified from most taxpayer-funded but church-administered adoption or fostering programs.
The funny thing about religious beliefs is that everyone has them. Some firmly believe in a structured and pageanted theology, some firmly believe that deities are nonsense, and some believe they have no idea and couldn’t care less. And no matter what you believe, there’s a church or organization for you. If your entire faith system consists of nothing more than “I hate those people over there”, I promise you that you can find others who agree and who will happily join together, form a church, and say that God told them so.
Only a pack of fools would look at that reality and decide that the widely ranging, vastly differing, and often irrational beliefs and rules about a subject which is, by its very nature, unknowable is the basis on which adoption and fostering policy would be based.
And let’s be real. Who works in the child advocacy field, anyway? Sure, there are a few good family-first quote Leviticus fire-brands, but it’s mostly a bunch of bleeding heart liberals. And you know, you just know, that the real losers in this deal are going to be the idiots who just voted for the thing.
* (The risen and gone to Heaven with nothing left to say about it Jesus, that is. Not the Love your Neighbor Jesus; he said things that are embarrassing and we try not to quote him too much).
Gay, Pro-Gay Candidates Win Big
November 9th, 2011
Yesterday was a very good day for gay and -pro-gay candidates throughout the country. Here is a wrap-up. Please let me know what else is out there in the comments.
NOM Loses Big: Same-sex marriage remains secure in Iowa as Liz Mathis won big, 56-44%, over her NOM-backed opponent, Cindy Golding, in a special election for the Iowa state Senate. The National Organization for Marriage threw about $40,000 toward their failed attempt to elect Golding by making same-sex marriage an issue in the race. But soon after it was clear Golding lost, NOM’s cultural director Thomas Peters tweeted: “That’s what happens when a state GOP nominates a weak candidate.” Wow. Talk about your fair weather friends.
Virginia’s First: Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay state senator in Virginia after defeating his Republican challenger by a margin of 64-35%. His district, which is solidly Democratic, includes parts of Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.
First Openly Gay, African-American Republican Mayor: At least that’s what we think happened when Bruce Harris was elected mayor of Chatham Borough, New Jersey.
Charlotte’s First: LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay city council member as part of a Democratic landslide in North Carolina’s largest city. North Carolina, which will see a marriage amendment on the ballot next year, saw a number of other LGBT victories:
- Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won re-election with 78% of the vote.
- Lee Storrow, a gay 22-year-old UNC grad won his race for a seat on the Chapel Hill city council.
- Carrboro incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle was re-elected to another term for city council.
Cincinnati’s First: Chis Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member. He worked in 2004 to help defeat Article XII in the city charter which banned anti-discrimination ordinances for gay people.
Indianapolis’s First: Zach Adamson became the first openly gay city council member. S
Missoula’s First: Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay city council member. She defeated one of only two city council members who voted against the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance in 2010, which made Missoula the first city in Montana to provide discrimination protections in housing and employment regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Youngest Mayor: Alex Morse, 22, beat incumbent mayor Mary Pluta in Holyoke, Massachusetts, to become the nation’s youngest mayor.
Houston Re-elects: Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected with more than 50% of the vote, a margin which allows her to avoid a run-off. Mike Laster also became the first openly gay member of Houston’s city council.
Traverse City Supports Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Voters in Traverse City, Michigan voted by a 2-to-1 margin to keep an anti-discrimination ordinance. The vote came more than a year after Traverse City adopted the ordinance to prevent discrimination against gays in employment, housing and other areas. Opponents of the measure collected signatures to place a referendum for repeal on the ballot.
And on a final note, there were a number of gains in school board elections around the country which I didn’t cover, but I would like to point one out anyway: Daniel Hernandez, Jr., Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s openly gay intern, was elected to as seat on the board of the Sunnyside Unified School District in Tuscon’s south side. Hernandez was one of the recognized heros during the January shooting at a Northwest side Safeway which killed six and critically injured Rep. Giffords. And on a more personal note, I couldn’t be happier about the stunning news that Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, architect of infamous anti-immigrant S.B. 1070 which was later found unconstitutional, was ousted by voters in favor of a political newcomer in Mesa.
Gay GOP Candidate Accuses Democratic Rival of Gay-Baiting
October 14th, 2011
In case anyone was under the illusion that gay-baiting was strictly a Republican tactic:
Patrick Forrest, the gay Republican running for state Senate in Reston, Va., said he’s heard that Democratic volunteers for State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) have been reaching out to conservative voters in her district to inform them of his sexual orientation in an effort to dissuade them from supporting him.
Forrest said he heard this information from Republicans in Virginia’s 32nd district while knocking on doors and campaigning.
“I’ve been approached by several people … very, very conservative — and had basically said to me, ‘You know, we heard you’re a homosexual,’” Forrest said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gay. I’ve always been openly gay.’ Well, we were actually told by … volunteers from the Democrats that you would be promoting the homosexual agenda in our schools.’”
The Washington Blade obtained recordings of between Eric Newland, Forrest’s field director, and Kavita Imarti, a Democratic precinct captain in Reston, who both justifies the tactic and claims that it is coming from Howell’s campaign:
Asked on the recording to clarify whether this tactic is coming from the Howell campaign, Imarti says, “Yes! You guys are openly prejudiced against someone due to orientation. I think that’s wrong. That’s wrong.”
Later, Imarti says, “What my campaign is saying is here’s your Republican candidate. He’s a homosexual. Why would you want to vote for someone who’s a homosexual and is going to push his agenda in your schools?”
Howell vigorously denies that her campaign is engaging in gay-baiting. Imarti herself is not affiliated with Howell’s campaign, and she now says that she was drunk when the recording was made. Forrest however says that reports of gay-baiting go way beyond Imarti’s admission, and says they include contacts with GOP leaders in the state legislature.
Howell denies the charges, and points to her endorsement by Equality Virginia, as well as her sponsorship of bills allowing companies to provide life and health insurance benefits to the partners of their gay employees and her opposition to the 2006 anti-marriage amendment.
Forrest has been endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
VA Legislator Charges Fed With Promoting A “Class 6 Felony”
June 3rd, 2011
Virginia Delegate Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William) sent a letter to the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank demanding that they remove the rainbow flag that is flying outside the building in honor of Pride month:
In a letter to Richmond Fed President Jeffrey M. Lacker, Marshall says the homosexual behavior “celebrated” by the bank “undermines the American economy” and is a class six felony in Virginia.
“The Richmond Fed’s endorsement of costly, anti-social, immoral behavior is rejected by 6,000 years of Western Religious and moral teaching,” writes Marshall, who is among the General Assembly’s most conservative members and has long been outspoken on gay-rights issues. “You want the American people to trust your [judgment] in economic matters when your spokesperson celebrates an attack on public morals?”
Marshal seems to have missed the memo in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2003′s Lawrence v. Texas.
Federal Reserve Flies The Colors
June 2nd, 2011
The rainbow flag is flying at the Richmond, Virginia branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank:
“We strongly support a diverse and inclusive culture at the Richmond Fed and have learned that it is important to value and embrace differences, both seen and unseen,” Sally Green said, chief operating officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
“We are flying the ‘Pride’ flag as an example of our commitment to the values of acceptance and inclusion,” Green added.
The flag is being flown at the request of PRISM, an employee LGBT group started at the Fed’s Richmond branch last year, and will fly throughout the month of June. Predictably, the sight of the rainbow flag has anti-gay activists seeing red.
VA Gov Issues Non-Reversing “Reversal” on Anti-Discrimination Ban
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”
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.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell invites the firing of state employees solely for being gay
February 18th, 2010
On Tuesday, Mrs. Jones told her pupils, “Hello class, I’ve noticed that you’ve been picking on a few of the children. It must stop, so I will not tolerate any abuse towards Alice, Bobby, or Carlos.”
- On Wednesday, Mrs. Jones said, “Today I have a new rule, different from yesterday’s rule. From now on you cannot abuse Alice or Bobby.”
- Carlos went home that day with a black eye.
The Washington Post is reporting on a change in state hiring policy enacted by new Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has signed an executive order barring discrimination in the state workforce on grounds that include race, sex, religion and age, but not sexual orientation.
Previous governors included sexual orientation.
There really is no way to translate this action other than that McDonnell believes that sexual orientation, in and of itself, can and should be used as a sole cause for firing state employees or denying promotion. This action by their governor is an open invitation for supervisors or managers to fire or demote employees. And it is likely to happen.
But what is even more likely to occur is abuse, harassment, and antagonizing of gay people. If a coworker calls someone a “damn pervert”, that’s not going to be punished. If the morning meeting is started by a daily f*ggot joke, there’s no recourse. If a state employee shares how they lost the paperwork of the “flaming queen in my line” to gales of laughter, that will not be illegal discrimination. And posting big signs quoting Leviticus or “protecting marriage” will not be an indication of a hostile workplace.
How can there be any respect or consideration, any objection to abuse, if the official state policy is “it’s OK to fire the queers!!”
Republicans Win Governors Races in Virginia and New Jersey
November 3rd, 2009
In what was a not-unexpected result, the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey have changed parties.
This is relevant to us in that Governor Corzine of NJ had been criticized for supporting marriage equality. However, the race was fairly close (unlike the Virginia race which was called within minutes of the polls closing) and it is unlikely that it can be translated as some referendum on marriage. It has long been rumored to be the intention of Corzine and the legislature to pass marriage equality during the lame duck session before Governor-Elect Christie is inaugurated.
Virginia To Recognize Box Turtles
February 1st, 2009
J. Chapman Petersen, Delegate from Virginia’s 37th District, has introduced State Senate Bill 1504 to designate the Eastern Box Turtle as the official state reptile of Virginia.
It’s about time Box Turtles got a little respect in Virginia. Now if only they’d see fit to recognize gay people.
[Hat tip: David]
Republican State Lawmaker Files Pro-Gay Bill
January 7th, 2009
Busting wide open two common stereotypes, a pro-gay bill was introduced by a Republican(!) legislator in Virginia’s(!!) lower house that would allow Virginia companies to provide life insurance to partners of gay employees. Virginia law currently restricts supplemental life insurance coverage to legal spouses and dependent children under 19 or 25 if the child is a full-time student. The new bill, filed by Delegate Tom Rust (R-Fairfax), would open that up to allow coverage to anyone “mutually… agreed upon by the insurer and the group policyholder.”
A similar bill was filed last year by the state’s only openly gay legislator, Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), but it died in committee.
New DNC Chair No Friend of LGBT Rights
January 5th, 2009
Now that the Rick Warren furor is subsiding, new concerns are raised over the prospects that Virginia governor Timothy Kaine will become the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. Kaine has been described as “mixed” on gay issues — and this description is relative to the already low expectations of Virginia politics. Kaine offered nothing but the most timid token opposition Virginia’s draconian marriage amendment.
Michael in Norfolk, a lawyer, has some additional gripes against Kaine, regarding a state employee who was fired for being gay just one week after the anti-marriage amendment passed:
Kaine did sign Executive Order 1 (2006) purporting to protect gay state employees upon taking office, thereby extending the policy of incoming U.S. Senator Mark Warner who Kaine succeeded as governor. But in terms of making sure that the Executive Order is enforced in a competent and timely manner, Kaine has been 100% missing in action. Moreover, the alleged investigation by the governmental department supposedly charged with enforcing the Executive Order of a complaint filed by a client against the Virginia Museum of Natural History has by the agency’s own prior statements already taken 440+ days longer than it should have. And still no determination is in sight.
That beeping noise you hear? It may well be a bus backing up to run over us again.