April 5, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Herring unveils LGBT agenda
Mark Herring, gay news, Washington Blade, gay virginia

Mark Herring says he will push for greater protections for transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay Virginia residents. (Photo courtesy of Herring for Attorney General)

Virginia attorney general candidate Mark Herring on Friday unveiled an agenda he maintains would extend equality to transgender, lesbian, bisexual and gay Virginia residents.

The Democratic state senator who represents portions of Loudoun and Fairfax Counties said during a conference call that he would adopt a non-discrimination policy in the Attorney General’s office that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Herring also stressed he would support boards of visitors of the commonwealth’s public colleges and universities’ efforts to ban anti-gay discrimination against their employees and students — current Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in 2010 recommended these institutions remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies.

Herring said he would work with local school districts to implement anti-bullying policies that “protect all students.” He added he would continue to oppose efforts to ban students from forming Gay-Straight Alliances.

Herring, who also supports marriage rights for same-sex couples, said he would work with advocates to end what he described as Virginia’s discriminatory adoption and foster care policies to ensure “placement decisions are always based on the best interests of the child and that no child in Virginia is denied a loving home.”

“I am committed to an equality agenda because I believe it’s time we have an attorney general who will protect and defend the civil rights of all Virginians,” he said. “It’s important for folks to understand that defending the civil rights of Virginians is not just an abstract concept.”

Herring spoke with reporters three days after the Washington Blade reported Cuccinelli, who will likely face former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe in the commonwealth’s November’s gubernatorial election, asked the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond to review a three-judge panel’s decision last month that struck down Virginia’s sodomy law.

“Ken Cuccinelli is wrong on this,” Herring said.

Herring further criticized Cuccinelli for his opposition to other LGBT-specific issues in the commonwealth.

“Ken Cuccinelli has taken action and supported policies that are divisive,” he said. “They’ve hurt Virginians; they’ve damaged the state’s reputation.”

Gay Virginia Sen. Ebbin to chair ‘LGBT Virginians for Herring’

Herring, who would face either state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) or state Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) in November if he defeats former assistant U.S. attorney Justin Fairfax in the Democratic primary in June, also announced the formation of an LGBT steering committee that gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) will chair.

“The public is more than ready for an attorney general like Mark Herring who not only covered the gamut of issues, but particularly stands up for equality,” Ebbin said, referring to Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion and other issues. “Not only are they ready for it, they expect it. Mark will meet those needs.”

Former Alexandria City Council candidate Sean Holihan; former Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Kris McLaughlin; LGBT rights advocates Danny Barefoot and Seth Morrison; Richmond resident Jim Schuyler and Charley Conrad, former chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s LGBT Caucus, are also part of the “LGBT Virginians for Herring” steering committee.

“We cannot afford to have any more of this craziness come out of the attorney general’s office,” Conrad, who is a substitute teacher in Arlington and Fairfax County schools, said. “The attorney general is the person that can look out for all the citizens of Virginians and not just some of the citizens of Virginia.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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