November 2, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Ralph Northam: Equality is the ‘sensible way to go’

Ralph Northam, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Ralph Northam (Photo courtesy of the Ralph Northam campaign)

NORFOLK, Va.—Democratic Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam on Friday stressed during an interview with the Washington Blade that he feels ending anti-LGBT discrimination in the commonwealth is good for the state’s economy.

“We need to look at Virginia as a business model,” Northam said before a campaign stop in Danville as he discussed efforts that would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. “If you run a business… you need to be all inclusive. You can’t sit there and say well we’ll take you, but we don’t want to take others. When it comes to that type of model, you certainly want to welcome women, you want to welcome the LGBT community. You want to welcome all people to the commonwealth. That’s the attitude and the philosophy that we need if we’re going to continue to be successful here in Virginia.”

Northam, a pediatric neurologist who grew up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, has represented the Sixth Senate District that includes portions of Norfolk and Virginia Beach since 2008.

He referenced his marriage to his wife of 27 years as he discussed his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Northam told this Blade his work as a physician has also shaped his views on the issue. He used the example of a gay or lesbian who is unable to visit their partner of 25 years in the hospital or make medical decisions on their behalf to highlight what he described the need to extend marriage rights for same-sex couples

“That’s just downright wrong,” Northam said.

Northam also discussed an ex-military servicemember whom he said he met during his 2011 re-election campaign.

He told the Blade the man asked him about his position on marriage rights for same-sex couples. Northam said the man began to cry after he began to explain his support of the issue because his son had come out to him as gay the week before and he did not know how to react.

“Marriage equality and equality’s for all people,” Northam said. “It’s just the sensible way to go in my view.”

Northam: Jackson’s comments are ‘divisive’ and ‘very offensive’

A poll that Roanoke College released on Oct. 30 showed Northam ahead of his Republican opponent, E.W. Jackson, by a 48-32 percent margin. A Washington Post/Abt SRBI survey unveiled earlier this week indicated he was ahead of Jackson by a 52-39 percent margin.

LGBT rights advocates and Democrats have repeatedly criticized Jackson, who is a minister from Chesapeake, for comparing gay men to pedophiles and describing them as “very sick people.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch in September reported that Jackson said during a speech at a Shenandoah County church that he disagrees with Pope Francis’ suggestion the Roman Catholic Church has grown “obsessed” with marriage rights for same-sex couples, abortion and contraception.

Jackson sought to distance himself from his anti-gay comments during interviews with Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 and other D.C. and Virginia television stations.

“Those types of comments are what I find and I think a lot of Virginians find ery offensive,” Northam told the Blade. “They’re divisive and there’s no place for them in the Senate of Virginia. And I don’t think there’s any place for them in Virginia.”

He also criticized Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who continues to trail former Democratic National Committee Chair Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race, over his opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBT-specific issues.

Northam further pointed out state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who is running against state Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) to succeed Cuccinelli as attorney general, left the Senate floor when he and his colleagues earlier this year voted to approve gay Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship.

The Virginia House of Delegates in May 2012 blocked Thorne-Begland’s nomination after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) claimed the then-Richmond prosecutor misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s.

“People of Virginia need to know… that [lawmakers] need to be more open-minded when it comes to taking care of all Virginians,” Northam said.

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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