“It’s economically the right thing to do,” said Warner during the first Northern Virginia Pride Festival that took place at the Bull Run Special Events Center in Fairfax County. “Companies want to be in locations where there’s not discriminatory practices. And we need to make sure that Virginia is not at the back of the pack, but at the front of the pack.”
Warner’s comments come against the backdrop of the release of a New York Times/CBS/YouGov Battleground Tracker poll that shows him ahead of former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie by a 51-39 percent margin. Robert Sarvis, an Independent who ran for governor last year, had 1 percent of the vote.
Warner, who was governor from 2002-2006, noted during his remarks the Virginia Housing Development Authority during his term lifted its ban on low-interest loans to same-sex couples. He has also urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend same-sex spousal benefits to veterans who live in states that have not yet granted marriage rights to gays and lesbians.
Warner as governor issued an executive order that banned discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation. He and then-U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in 2010 recommended that President Obama nominate current U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen to the federal bench.
Allen in February ruled Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. A three-judge panel with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July upheld her decision.
The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to announce whether it will hear same-sex marriage cases from Virginia and four other states in its upcoming term that begins on Monday.
“People want to hire somebody whose had a bipartisan record as governor, bipartisan record as senator, that recognizes that everybody in this country ought to get a fair shot,” Warner told the Washington Blade in a brief interview after speaking at the Northern Virginia Pride Festival.
Warner also applauded Attorney General Mark Herring for his decision not to defend Virginia’s marriage amendment.
“In this country, everybody ought to get a fair shot,” said Warner. “In this country, there ought to be no levels of discrimination against anyone.”
Herring and Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, who is running against state Del. Barbara Comstock (R-Fairfax County) in the race to succeed retiring Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf, joined Warner on stage.
“We need to eliminate discrimination of all kinds in this country,” said Foust, noting he would support efforts to further expand marriage rights to same-sex couples if elected next month. “We need to treat everyone equally and I want to be your advocate in doing that.”