Virginia Democrats and LGBT rights advocates have criticized the state’s Republican Party for nominating three anti-gay men as their statewide candidates.
The Republican Party of Virginia on Saturday officially nominated Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as its gubernatorial candidate to face off against Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe. E.W. Jackson and state Sen. Mark Obenshein (R-Harrisonburg) will round out the ticket as the party’s lieutenant gubernatorial and attorney general candidates.
Cuccinelli, who has previously described same-sex sexual acts as “intrinsically wrong,” in March filed an ultimately unsuccessful challenge to a three-judge panel’s ruling that overturned the commonwealth’s sodomy law.
The current attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies. Cuccinelli was also among those who spoke at an anti-gay marriage gathering at a Manassas church in October to which the Washington Blade was denied access.
Jackson, who founded Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, reaffirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage during a speech at the Republican Party of Virginia convention after delegates officially nominated him. Equality Virginia noted he has compared gay men to pedophiles and described them as “very sick people, psychologically, mentally and emotionally.”
Equality Virginia also pointed out Obenshein sponsored Senate Bill 1074 that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law in March that bans public universities from denying recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate in their membership based on sexual orientation and other categories that federal law does not protect. He also opposed a measure in a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee tabled in February that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.
“Ken Cuccinelli, E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain are openly hostile to LGBT families in communities across the commonwealth,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said after the state GOP officially nominated the three men.
Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Aneesh Chopra also criticized the Virginia GOP ticket.
“The nomination of E.W. Jackson and Mark Obenshain shows just how out of touch the Republican Party of Virginia has become,” he told the Blade on Tuesday. “Together with Ken Cuccinelli, they represent a vision of Virginia moving backward and reflect one of the most extreme tickets the commonwealth has seen in a long time.”
State Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria,) who chairs the Democratic Party of Virginia, described the GOP candidates’ rhetoric during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday as “divisive, dangerous and mean-spirited.” She, Parrish and gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) stressed their positions could further damage the state’s reputation if voters elect them in November.
“Cuccinelli’s mean-spirited statements do not represent the commonwealth,” Ebbin said. “The truth is Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson’s cruel comments don’t just represent the biases of the past, but represent a threat to Virginia as a welcoming place to do business.”
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted between May 8-13 found 43 percent of respondents support McAuliffe, compared to 38 percent who back Cuccinelli for governor. A survey the Washington Post released earlier this month shows Cuccinelli led McAuliffe by a 46-41 percent margin.
The same poll noted 70 percent of respondents said they know little or nothing about McAuliffe. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they know little or nothing about Cuccinelli.
A Cuccinelli campaign spokesperson did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.
Herring, Ebbin and Parrish said during Tuesday’s conference call they remain optimistic voters will have learned about the Republican ticket’s anti-gay rhetoric by the time they cast their ballots on Election Day.
“It is our job to let people know about the record of Ken Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson,” said Herring, noting the state’s Democratic Party earlier this year launched a field program to reach out to potential voters. “It’s a dangerous record and is not good for Virginia families.”
Ebbin reaffirmed his support for McAuliffe.