October 30, 2013 at 6:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
McAuliffe portrays Cuccinelli as anti-gay ahead of Election Day
Terry McAuliffe, Virginia, McLean, gay news, Washington Blade

Terry McAuliffe with Mark Herring and President Bill Clinton at a rally in Herndon, Va. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

HERNDON, Va.—Former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe continues to portray Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as anti-gay in the final days of the commonwealth’s gubernatorial campaign.

McAuliffe pointed out his Republican rival once described gay Virginians as “soulless human beings” in response to a question during an Oct. 24 debate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg that Roanoke television station WDBJ sponsored.

“Who talks like that,” McAuliffe said. “There’s somebody in this audience who might be gay or has a friend who’s gay. You cannot grow and diversify our economy with this mean-spirited language.”

McAuliffe, who has publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples alongside the two other Democratic candidates for statewide office, further sought to differentiate himself from Cuccinelli during a campaign rally at Herndon Middle School on Monday at which former President Clinton spoke. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner; Congressman Gerry Connolly and state Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), who chairs the Democratic Party of Virginia, also addressed those who attended the event.

“We must be a state where gay Virginians are treated equally,” McAuliffe said.

Poll: Majority of Virginians find Cuccinelli too conservative

A Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll unveiled on Monday shows McAuliffe ahead of Cuccinelli by a 51-39 percent margin among likely Virginia voters. Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis, who also backs nuptials for gays and lesbians, received eight percent.

The survey also found state Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk) ahead of Republican E.W. Jackson by a 52-39 percent margin in the lieutenant gubernatorial race. State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) was ahead of his GOP rival in the attorney general campaign, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), by a 49-46 percent margin.

Fifty-four percent of likely Virginia voters who responded to the Washington Post/Abt SRBI poll said they feel Cuccinelli’s views on most issues are too conservative. Forty-six percent of respondents who took part in a Quinnipiac University survey conducted between Oct. 2-8 had the same opinion of the attorney general. 

LGBT rights advocates and Democrats have repeatedly criticized Cuccinelli and Virginia’s statewide Republican ticket over their opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples and other gay-specific measures in the commonwealth.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied Cuccinelli’s request to appeal a lower court ruling that found Virginia’s sodomy law unconstitutional.

The Republican attorney general in 2010 recommended Virginia colleges and universities remove LGBT-specific provisions from their non-discrimination policies.

Cuccinelli defended the commonwealth’s constitutional amendment that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians during a Sept. 25 debate against McAuliffe in McLean. The attorney general also spoke at an anti-gay marriage rally at a Manassas church last October to which the Washington Blade was denied access.

Gay activists blasted Jackson over his comparison of gay men to pedophiles and describing them as “very sick people.”

Obenshain sponsored a bill 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. Obenshain also opposed a measure a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in February tabled earlier this year that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

“For the past four years, Ken Cuccinelli has bent and twisted the law in order to impose policies on Virginians that are far outside the mainstream,” Mark Herring said during the McAuliffe rally at Herndon High School. “My opponent — Mark Obenshain — would be a continuation of that approach.”

NOM describes Cuccinelli as ‘champion for marriage’

Ken Cucinelli, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor, Ken Cuccinelli speaking at a rally in Fairfax, Va. on Oct. 28. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Cuccinelli did not mention his opposition to same-sex marriage during a campaign rally at the Waterford in Fairfax which U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke.

Campaign finance reports indicate the Family Research Council and other anti-LGBT organizations and figures have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial bid.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting” whose eldest son now works as a lobbyist for the Family Research Council in D.C., joined Cuccinelli on the campaign trail last month. The National Organization for Marriage on Tuesday described the attorney general as a “true champion for marriage and life” in an e-mail to supporters.

“NOM is honored to support Virginia’s attorney general — Ken Cuccinelli — in his campaign for governor of the commonwealth,” NOM President Brian Brown wrote. “Cuccinelli is facing off against Clinton crony Terry McAuliffe, an ardent pro-abortion, pro-marriage redefinitionist.”

McAuliffe supporter: Cuccinelli’s marriage position ‘incorrect’

Annandale resident Senora Avery told the Blade after the McAuliffe rally at Herndon Middle School that transportation, women’s rights and Medicare are among her top priorities going into Election Day. She criticized Cuccinelli’s position on same-sex marriage and abortion.

“His particular ideology about that is incorrect,” Avery said. “People ought to have the choice to do and love who they want to love. And I agree that Terry’s position on that is 100 percent correct.”

Cuccinelli supporters with whom the Blade spoke at the Waterford sought to downplay his opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBT-specific issues.

A man holding a National Rifle Association sign who declined to tell the Blade his name said he feels Cuccinelli’s positions on the aforementioned topics have received too much attention during the campaign.

“Instead of on social issues as much, we need to be on fiscal issues,” he said. “We need to be about what’s best for Virginia.”

Jeffrey Young of Bristow, who was also holding an NRA sign as he and his wife stood with their two young children, told the Blade government spending and abortion are among their top issues.

Young questioned those who have categorized Cuccinelli as anti-gay because of his opposition to same-sex marriage and previous statements that LGBT rights advocates have categorized as homophobic.

“I read his legislation and his policies,” Young told the Blade, noting the attorney general’s Roman Catholic faith and church teachings around homosexuality and marriage. “I read the opponent’s policies and there’s an obvious disparity between them, but none of that really comes up in his policies or any of the legislation I’ve seen from him.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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