Category Archives: Gay rights

Virginia’s Philosophical Crossroads


Judge Arenda Wright Allen

Standing before a trim, white, clapboard house off Lafayette Boulevard in Norfolk last week, friends and supporters of gay rights cheered loudly as two same sex couples approached a front-yard podium to celebrate their legal victory in having Virginia’s gay marriage ban overturned.

The night before, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen, citing Abraham Lincoln and the unfairness of the state’s previous ban on interracial marriage, had declared Virginia’s ban unconstitutional.

It had been supported by the state’s conservatives and also by 57 percent of voters who approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 declaring marriage as only for men and women. Popular opinion, however, appears to have shifted

It was an historic moment on a par with federal courts overturning racial segregation and other blunt violations of human rights. Seventeen states now allow gay marriage and a host of lawsuits tend to push overturning bans. Virginia is the first Southern state to do so.

Immediately, hard-right politicians such as Prince William County’s Bob Marshall called for the judge’s impeachment just as some demanded the ouster of the new state Attorney General, Mark Herring, for, correctly, refusing to defend the marriage ban.

The situation represents a huge shift in philosophy for the state. For years, Virginia has been dominated by conservative thinking that is enormously contradictory.

As Richmond Times Dispatch columnist Jeff Schapiro points out this morning, the tension is between promoting limited government and individual freedom in some areas (little regulation of business and politicians) and badly suppressing individual rights in cases such as marriage and abortion.

Just as history was being made in Norfolk federal court, the General Assembly was putting the finishing touches on useless new rules that do next to nothing to police Virginia’s incredibly lax governance of gift giving and political donations.

This comes after the state’s reputation was badly stained by the first-ever indictment of a former governor (Robert F. McDonnell) on federal corruption charges. So much for “the Virginia way” that touts Thomas Jefferson and the entire cadre for freedom.

I have always been frustrated by the state’s bi-polar attitudes about individual rights. Not a Virginian by birth, I was glad to leave the state in 1983 after reporting from it for about eight years. I was sick and tired of its genuflecting before big business on environment and labor issues. Little-regulated Big Business, after all, had given Virginians such presents the Kepone ecological disaster.

Years later, I was passing through Virginia from New York driving from New York to visit my parents in North Carolina. We stopped at a Denny’s and were told by a waitress that we could not order our cheeseburgers medium rare because that’s what the legislature had ruled. More recently, I ended up shelling out a few hundred bucks because my daughter needed new contact lenses and state rules require unneeded yearly optical exams. Apparently that’s due to lobbying by the state eye-care industry.

The philosophical contradictions are finally catching up. Even though proponents of gay rights at the Norfolk press conference made a big deal about Virginia being the first “southern” state to confront ending the gay marriage ban, I am not so sure the state is really “Southern” any more. Continue reading

Tar Heel Grief Just Down the Road

By Peter Galuszka

It’s sad to see mccrorytwo states to which I have personal ties – North Carolina and West Virginia — in such bad ways.

The latest raw news comes from the Tar Heel state where we are seeing the handiwork of hard-right- Gov. Pat McCrory who has been on a tear for a year now bashing civil rights here, pulling back from regulation there.

The big news is Duke Energy’s spill of coal ash and contaminated water near Eden into the Dan River, which supplies Danville and potentially Virginia Beach with drinking water. Reports are creeping out that the McCrory regime has been pressuring the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to pull back from regulation.

According to Rachel Maddow, DENR officials had stepped in with environmentalists as plaintiffs on two occasions in lawsuits to get Duke Energy to clean up coal ash. But when a third suit was filed, McCrory, a former Charlotte Mayor and career Duke Energy employee, influenced a third lawsuit settlement against Duke to be delayed.

Also, not long before the Eden spill, the City of Burlington released sewage into the Haw River which flows into Lake Jordan serving drinking water to Cary, Apex and Pittsboro. DENR allegedly did not release news of the spill to the public.

Late last year, Amy Adams, a senior DENR official, resigned to protest the massive cuts McCrory and Republican legislators were forcing at her department, notably in its water quality section.

McCrory’s been on a Ken Cuccinelli-style rip in other ways such as cutting back on unemployment benefits in a top manufacturing state badly hit by the recession and globalization. He’s shut down abortion clinics by suddenly raising the sanitation rules to hospital levels, much like former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell did in Virginia.

A reaction to McCrory is building, however. Recently, I chatted with Jason Thigpen who served in the Army and was wounded in Iraq in 2009. When Thigpen returned to his home in southeastern North Carolina, he was upset that the state was sticking it to vets by making them pay out-of-state college tuition in cases where some had been state residents before deploying. So, he started an activist group to protect them.

Next, Thigpen decided to run for Congress. His views fit more neatly with the Republican Party but he simply could not take what McCrory was doing in Raleigh so he became a Democrat and is a contender in a primary this spring.

Why the switch? “I just couldn’t see what the GOP was doing with my state in Raleigh,” He told me. “Also, I didn’t like what they were doing with women. I had served with women in war and they come back to North Carolina and they are treated like second class citizens,” he said.

West Virginia, meanwhile, is still struggling with its drinking water issues from a spill near Charleston. Although drinking water for 300,000 is said to be potable, children are reporting rashes.

Somehow, this conjures up another story involving a Republican governor – Arch Moore.

Back in 1972, Moore was governor when Pittston, a Virginia-based energy firm, had badly sited and built some damns to hold coal waste. After torrential rains, the dams burst and a sea of filthy water raced down the hollows, inundating small villages and killing 125 people. The state wanted a $100 million settlement from Pittston for the Buffalo Creek disaster, but Moore interceded and they settled for a measly $1 million.

Moore was later convicted of five felonies after he was caught extorting $573,000 from a coal company that wanted to reduce its payments to a state fund that compensated miners who got black lung disease.

Does anyone see a pattern yet?

Meanwhile, we in Virginia should breathe a sigh of relief considering just close it was dodging the bullet last election.

Why Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ban Is Toast

same-sex-marriage-hearing01.jpg w=560By Peter Galuszka

It’s happening faster than anyone could have imagined.

Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage by defining marriage as only between “a man and a woman” seems heading very rapidly down the hole. That was the upshot from U.S. District Court Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen in Norfolk yesterday. After a two-hour hearing The Obama nominee said to expect a decision “very soon.”

What some lawyers think that means is that she will declare the Virginia ban unconstitutional and issue a preliminary injunction forcing corrective action for two gay couples in Norfolk and Chesterfield Count who were denied marriage licenses by the state last year. It could happen in a matter of days.

Similar lawsuits are pending in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Utah. Gay marriage is now permitted in 17 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia. Lawyers on all sides see the issue as headed eventually for a decision by the Supreme Court. A Norfolk ruling likewise is expected to move very swiftly up the appeals ladder.

The hearing in Norfolk’s darkly paneled chamber oozed glamor and politics. Lead attorneys for the plaintiffs are Ted Olson and David Pies, regarded as rock stars for their high profile cases. They beat back California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in the U.S. Supreme Court last year. They were on opposite sides when the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore ended up in the highest court.

Said Olson in Norfolk, “What the Commonwealth of Virginia is doing is taking away a fundamental right. It’s the right of individuals, not the right of state, that’s what’s being taken away.”

The other side has some politically charged counsel as well. One is Austin Nimock, a lawyer for the defense who is part of the conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom. He said that that a ruling against the ban would “change the basic concept of marriage in Virginia” and that the institution has been a state tradition “for 400 years.”

Virginia’s new and controversial Attorney General Mark Herring was there as well. He shocked state conservatives by refusing to defend the marriage ban. And despite all the gnashing of teeth among Baconauts and other right wingers about Herring’s supposed dereliction of duty, another attorney general has done the same. Pennsylvania’s Kathleen Kane refused to defend that state’s gay marriage ban last July.

Basically, the arguments break down in two ways. The plaintiffs argue that the Virginia law is unconstitutional and smacks of the state’s dark history of racist and wrong-headed laws. Among them are its support for segregation, a ban on interracial marriage and denying women spots at the Virginia Military Institute, which gets state funding.

The defense says that marriage is traditional and is important for procreation. Attorney Nimock pounded that theme over and over, claiming that 99 percent of all children in this country are the product of interaction between men and women. Another defense lawyer, David Oakley, claimed that if political opinion is changing, then the decision should be made by the General Assembly and voters.

The problem is, said the plaintiffs’ lawyers and I wholeheartedly agree, the Bill of Rights and the constitution are designed precisely to protect the rights of minorities. If voters or their legislators could strip away individual rights at the whim of the majority, we’d live in fascism. You would think that for all their posturing with the “Founders” and the three-cornered hats, the right wings, especially the Tea Party people, would get that. As for procreation, plenty of 80-year-olds get married and probably aren’t entering the union to have children.

Anyway, it’s all happening very fast. It is way out of the control of the state’s conservatives and some church groups. Better get ready for a huge change.

Note: for a richly reported account on the evolution of Richmond’s gay community check out this story in Style Weekly

Message to GOP: Shoe’s On The Other Foot

mcauliffeBy Peter Galuszka

Not three weeks ago, Newly elected Gov. Terry McAuliffe stood before the Virginia State Capitol and extolled a new era of bipartisanship in Richmond. It doesn’t seem to have lasted very long.

Whether by design or chance, a series of events have strengthened the state Democrats’ hand and terrified the Republicans who have dominated the agenda for the past four years.

Attorney General Mark Herring made the dramatic announcement that he would not defend the state’s ban on gay marriage, saying it went against the U.S. Constitution.

McAuliffe partly sidestepped delegates from both parties who are proposing a toothless ethics reform in connection with the gifts scandal that led to the indictment of former GOP governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife. The new governor issued an executive order that forbids executive branch employees from accepting gifts of more than $100 and sets aside $100,000 for a State Ethics Commission that presumably would have true investigative power.

The latest news is that the Democrat won a special election for a state Senate seat that truly upsets the GOP’s apple cart. Not only do the Democrats now control the Senate, they have made a rule change that allows the chairman of the Rules Committee to kill bills that have been significantly altered by the House of Delegates. An example of such a bill is one in 2011 that would have addressed infections in hospitals but was turned by the House into a crackdown on abortion clinics.

McAuliffe and his team are now in a much better position to try to push ahead with the Medicaid expansion that conservative Republicans are fighting.

Naturally, there is much gnashing of teeth among GOP legislators, who claim the developments are “dangerous.” Herring’s move on gay marriage has prompted calls for his resignation. A bill to impeach him, supported by the Tea Party, is making the rounds.

My takeaway? Amusement. Not that long ago, the state was enduring hard-right attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli’s legal moves to advance his highly-politicized agenda, which didn’t have much to do with the needs of the state. Many of the very same conservative Republicans now screaming bloody murder worked hand and glove with Cuccinelli.

The shoe is on the other foot now.

Journalism’s Death Is Greatly Exaggerated

rachel_maddowBy Peter Galuszka

“Investigative reporting, R.I.P. In-depth reporting is dead. If not dead, it’s comatose. Reeling from declining revenue and eroding profit margins, print media enterprises continue to lay off staff and shrink column inches.”

Err, maybe not. James A. Bacon Jr., meet Rachel Maddow.

The quote comes from advertised “sponsorships” in which an outside entity can help fund reporting and writing on this blog. It’s a morphed form of traditional journalism and there’s nothing wrong with it, provided the funding source is made clear.

But what might be jumping the gun is the sweeping characterization that in-depth reporting is dead. That is precisely the point of Maddow’s monthly column in The Washington Post.

She notes that it was local traffic reporters and others who broke the story about Chris Christie’s finagling with toll booths to punish a political opponent. She shows evidence of other aggressive reporting in Connecticut and in South Carolina, where an intrepid reporter got up early one morning, drive 200 miles to the Atlanta airport and caught then disappeared Gov. Mark Sanford disembarking from an overseas flight to see his Latin American mistress when he had claimed he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Closer to home, it was the Post, which has seen more than 400 newsrooms layoffs over the past years, that broke GiftGate, the worst political scandal in Virginia in recent memory. The rest of the state press popped good stories, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch that has been somewhat reinvigorated despite nearly 10 years of corporate cheerleading and limp coverage under publisher Tom Silvestri. The departure of the disastrous former editor Glenn Proctor, Silvestri’s brainchild, helped a lot as did the sale of the paper by dysfunctional Media General to Warren Buffett.

To be sure, there are sad departures. The Hook, a Charlottesville alternative, did a great job reporting the forced and temporary ouster of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, but it has folded.

Funding, indeed, remains a huge problem, even at Bacon’s Rebellion where we all write pretty much for free. One solution, Maddow notes, happened in a tiny Arkansas town that found it was located over a decaying ExxonMobil fuel pipeline. The community raised funds to help hire more reporters to break through the news.

She suggests: “Whatever your partisan affiliation, or lack thereof, subscribe to your local paper today. It’s an act of civic virtue.”

Hear! Hear!

Thank God It’s Over: Seven Election Takeaways

cooch and macBy Peter Galuszka

The awful Virginia gubernatorial contest is over. Utter disaster has been averted with the defeat of strident rightwinger Kenneth Cuccinelli. Here are seven takeaways from Election Day:

1. Winner Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, now gets to deal with a contentious General Assembly where the GOP maintains firm control on the House of Delegates. The state may be stubbornly gridlock prone come January.

2. Amid all the confusion over implementing the Affordable Car Act, McAuliffe must do something for the 400,000 or so needy Virginians who can’t get federal health insurance subsidies. One reason is that Virginia’s conservatives have rejected expanding Medicaid. Good luck to McAuliffe on his coming effort to reverse this.

3. It should be crystal clear from Tuesday’s voting patterns that the Old Dominion has moved beyond the Tea Party craze and their various machinations. Moderate Republicans need to find some backbone and clean out the Tea Party types who manipulated the party convention that got rid of a winnable Bill Bolling and replaced him with losers like Cuccinelli and E.W. Jackson, who got creamed in the lieutenant governor’s race.

4. Once again, suburban and urban Virginians have shown that they hold the keys to power. The Walton family types from the rural hills may be perennially “red,” but they are fading into history much like that television show’s reruns.

5. Soon, we should learn whether Gov. Robert F. McDonnell will be indicted on corruption charges. Richmond’s focus needs to turn to ethics reform and the work of creating real institutions for dealing with these kinds of issues, such as a State Ethics Commission, although I realize this is unlikely.

6. Virginia has a ton of real problems such as the need to create sustainable jobs to wean the state away from an increasingly unreliable federal government sector. Roads remain a huge issue, as does maintaining and improving education, and pushing smarter growth planning policies.

That’s enough for the moment, but there is some good news I need to throw in:

7. Now that Cuccinelli is out of the way, the state won’t have to be sidetracked by the infuriating fringe issues that come along with him, such his climate change denial, assaults on women’s rights, bashing gays and immigrants and tendency to blame the government for everything wrong with the state.

The jury’s still out on a flawed McAuliffe, but let the healing and rebuilding begin.

Sunday Morning Coming Down


With apologies to Kris Kristofferson, this Sunday morning presents a grab bag of interesting morning newspaper stories and positions. To wit:

GiftGate Update, Getting the Stories Straight: According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Star Scientific boss Jonnie R. Williams Sr. told federal prosecutors he insisted on meeting personally with his then-buddy Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to make sure that McDonnell understood that Williams was lending Maureen McDonnell, the First Lady, $50,000 in 2011.

At the time the McDonnells were having serious debt issues because of some bad investments in vacation property. McDonnell paid back the loan, among to hers, but has consistently claimed he didn’t know about the loan to Maureen. His staff backs the claim in today’s TD story.

The Times-Dispatch also suggests that we’ll learn sometime after the election and before Thanksgiving if there will be federal indictments. Star Scientific has posted news releases saying it is in the clear. The Washington Post has reported that McDonnell’s defense has taken a blow because a judge is allowing prosecutors access to certain emails.

And, with today’s story, you have Williams and McDonnell directly contradicting each other. According to federal law, one doesn’t need a clear-cut, signed sealed and delivered “quo” for an indictment, just an attempt at doing something in exchange for something else. Some people on this blog keep saying “there’s no smoking gun,” which is a hackneyed and confusing phrase. What is the test for a “smoking gun?” It seems as if the feds are moving closer and closer to indictments.

 RTD Won’t Endorse Either Cuccinelli or McAuliffe: That’s even bigger news, showing how the staid old grey lady is changing for the better with Warren Buffett. Had J. Stewart Bryan still been publisher, you can bet they’d be for the Cooch, but maybe too much gay bashing got to the editorial board. It writes: “We find it impossible to endorse any of the 2013 candidates with even a minimal zeal.” The TD even went on a chose Democrat Ralph Northam over whack-job E.W. Jackson, another outrageous social conservative. They did go with Republican Mark Obenshain for attorney general, however.

Pouring Cold Water on the School Reform Craze: When one reads Bacons Rebellion, he or she is confronted with certain premises, Fox News style, that America’s public schools are in absolute shambles that only some weird combination of funding cuts, free market capitalism, terrorizing and shaming teachers and making a MOOC-age of our classrooms can correct.

Spin over to The Washington Post for a book review. The book, “Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch, an education historian and adviser to both Bush I and Bill Clinton, pushes the idea today’s view that the problems of public schools are greatly exaggerated and solutions are being pushed by self-serving free-market types who want to make a profit somehow by “correcting” the schools.

There are problems, to be sure, but she writes: “The transfer of public funds to private management and the creation of thousands of deregulated, unsupervised, and unaccountable schools have opened the public coffers to profiteering fraud and exploitation by large and small entrepreneurs.”

Important stuff when you consider that some 90 percent of American’s children are in public schools. Only four percent are in charter schools. Come to think of it, Virginia has only five charter schools, which is rather incredible when you consider how much buzz they get in the right-wing echo chamber like this blog.

What “Boomergeddon?” Another common theme among conservatives that shows everything is coming apart is the general downgrade of the U.S. and not just its credit. True we had a hell of a mess this week, but it is wrong to assume that the U.S. is in some kind of death spiral, write Ely Ratner and Thomas Wright in the Post.

As the U.S. continues to recover from a terrific economic disaster, it is still making significant and steady progress. That is, compared to other companies. Anyone remember Jim Bacon’s book? It outlined the emergence of BIC (Brazil, India and China) to show just what chumps we Americans are. Turns out that Brazil’s growth is going from 7 to 1 percent, India’s economy has greatly slowed and China faces slowing growth and big inflation.

Now, that could be the real “War on Coal.” Now I’m not talking about EPA carbon dioxide regs; I’m talking about metallurgical coal exports from southwest Virginia to BIC steel mills. If their economies aren’t booming any more, maybe they aren’t using as much steel and don’t need as much met coal.

Let’s tell Jim Bacon. Anyone got his number?

Was Cuccinelli Wrong in “Correcting” McAuliffe?

lawsSling that mud. Last night Virginia’s Republican and Democratic candidates for governor engaged in a mud slinging contest thinly disguised as a debate. As each flung shovels of mud into the air hoping that some of it would stick, a few semi-salient points accidentally got loose.  One of those points was Terry McAuliffe’s readiness to be governor of Virginia.  Given that McAuliffe has never held elected office, his readiness is a fair point. Of course, neither Mark Warner nor Ronald Reagan held elected office before being elected governor but let’s let bygones be bygones. McAuliffe’s inexperience is a fair point.

How a bill becomes a law. During the debate McAuliffe said something to the effect that he would sign legislation “legalizing” gay marriage if that legislation passed his desk. Cuccinelli pounced. Cuccinelli explained that Virginia’s gay marriage amendment could only be repealed by another constitutional amendment to repeal it (remember prohibition?).  That requires two sessions of the General Assembly and couldn’t happen in McAuliffe’s term. A state or federal supreme court ruling in favor of gay marriage would be a judicial matter, not something a governor signs.

Jerry, Jerry, Jerry! The conservative live bloggers went into full Jerry Springer mode at Cuccinelli’s comments. He was schooling McAuliffe. The carpetbagger McAuliffe should spend some time learning Virginia law. This PROVES that McAuliffe is not ready to govern!

Uh, oh. I am wondering whether our vaunted Attorney General may have, once again, let his emotions get the better of him.  The laws of Virginia are not simply the state constitution. Instead, there are thousands of pages of statutes which supposedly, hopefully, implement the constitutions of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States of America. If Virginia’s amendment prohibiting gay marriage were to be overturned, what would happen to the enabling legislation in Virginia? Wouldn’t it have to be changed? If not, couldn’t the General Assembly change it if it decided to do so?

Civility in unions if not debates. Virginia’s state law contains Section 20-45.3, “Civil unions between persons of same sex.”  It reads:

A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable.

If Virginia’s anti-gay marriage amendment were overturned this legislation would have to be re-legislated, no? Or, at least, a new law could be passed, no?And the new law would have to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by …. wait for it …. the governor!

If you need a lawyer, don’t call me. I am not a lawyer. So, if I am wrong on this – just let me know. I’ll publish a retraction and an apology to Mr. Cuccinelli. Any Republican lawyers out there ready to “school me”? But remember, Cuccinelli’s essential claim was that it would be impossible for McAuliffe to get the chance to sign legislation approving gay marriage during his term as governor. Is that right or not?

– DJ Rippert

The Cooch and the Pope

popeBy Peter Galuszka

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” says Pope Francis, leader of the globe’s Roman Catholics, regarding abortion, gays and contraception.

One wonders if Ken Cuccinelli gets the message. Or maybe even Bob McDonnell. The attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate and the sitting governor have worn their stridently conservative Catholic views on their sleeves for years.

Abusing his office, Cuccinelli has taken strong positions to punish homosexuals and make legal abortion much less available. McDonnell likewise has been shutting down women’s health clinics and became a national laughingstock in 2012 for the trans-vaginal fiasco.

Now you have the Church’s new pope signalling a major shift away from these wedge issues that have alienated millions of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Conservative Catholics have long embraced sexually related issues as a way to hold what they consider an eroding ethical line. But in doing so, they are ignoring equally important issues such as social justice and keeping the church’s thinking medieval.

Francis is a breath of fresh air after his reactionary predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, a strict doctrinaire who forced a policy of exclusivity in the Church that was very harmful. Ditto the rock star Polish Pope.

It is ironic that Francis has ascended not long after Bishop Walter Sullivan, the former head of the Diocese of Richmond, died. From the 1970s until 2002, Sullivan, a Washington native, pushed his liberal views regardless of who was offended in this highly right wing state. He was as against abortion as any Catholic clergyman but he extended the thinking on the sanctity of life to include prisoners on death row, according to recent biography, “The Good Bishop” by veteran author and essayist Phyliss Theroux who lives in Ashland.

I recently reviewed her book for Style Weekly.

Sullivan, who died Dec. 11 at age 84, was incensed that former Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. took to executions with relish after the Supreme Court reinstituted the death penalty in 1976. Since then, Virginia has put to death 110 convicts, giving it a rank of No. 2 in the country after Texas. Sullivan drew attention to the issue by attending every execution he could.

In the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was running up the defense budget to best “The Evil Empire,” Sullivan actually told a well-to-do parish heavy with military contractors in Virginia Beach that it was wrong to be associated with the making of nuclear weapons. It sparked outrage and also landed Sullivan on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The current Bishop of Richmond who replaced Sullivan is a traditionalist who has rolled back many of Sullivan’s outreach initiatives to gays, women, convicts and the poor. One wonders how he will respond to the Pope’s vision. The New York Times says the Old Guard will likely pretend Pope Francis did not say what he did.

There may also be an impact on Virginia politics since the key top players tend to be Catholic. Besides Cuccinelli and McDonnell, Terry McAuliffe and Tim Kaine are, although they espouse a much more inclusive version of the faith.

The most strident is Cuccinelli who attended Gonzaga High School, a Jesuit school in D.C. (Full disclosure, I graduated from another Jesuit high school in the D.C. area and hardly share Cuccinelli’s views.)

To some extent, Cuccinelli has toned down the anti-gay rhetoric, but one only has to review his record as attorney general and in the state Senate to see where he stands.

Who knows, maybe he could form a new Catholic church just as some arch-conservative Episcopalians did. In any event, it looks like the Church is at the start of some badly needed changes.

Cuccinelli’s Strange Obsession

anti-gay protest By Peter Galuszka

Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli, now running as a Republican for governor, has had a number of strange obsessions: going doggedly after a climatologist over global warming issues he disagrees with and pushing to arm investigators involved with Medicaid fraud.

But nothing compares with Cuccinelli’s stubborn insistence that sodomy should be illegal even though the U.S. Supreme Court says that any such law is unconstitutional. The undercurrent seems to be that Cuccinelli is abnormally obsessed with sex and gays.

To get a feel for what he thinks is important, check out his Website. In July, it issued seven press releases. Three of them involved child pornography, sex crimes or prostitution. In June, the county was four out of 14 press releases and in May, four out of nine releases. One wonders if the attorney general actually believes that sex is the biggest legal problem Virginia faces.

He has been more famous for something else – his dogged insistence that Virginia challenge a federal court appeals knock-down of Virginia’s archaic anti-sodomy law that would make oral and anal sex a felony. Cuccinelli’s excuse is that he is trying to protect children against child abuse.

His argument has been taken apart in an Aug. 7 analysis “Ken Cuccinelli’s Sodomy Obsession” in Slate, the digital magazine.

Cuccinelli claims that Virginia’s anti-sodomy law, which sets no age limit, might be constitutional if the high court “would just interpret the terrifyingly broad sodomy law to apply only to sex involving 16 and 17-year-olds.”

In other words, he would be adding age limits to a law that doesn’t specify them. This gets a bit loopy.

Cuccinelli’s case in question involves the matter of 47-year-old William MacDonald who solicited oral sex from a 17-year-old woman. Nothing apparently happened but it turned out that the state couldn’t hit MacDonald with a statutory rape rap because the age for consent in Virginia is 15.

This is where it gets weird. As Slate puts it: “Asking a federal court to turn a state anti-sodomy law into an anti-statutory rape law means that if MacDonald had engaged in ordinary intercourse with a 17-year-old girl every day for a month, he would not face a felony conviction or be a sex offender.”

Cuccinelli’s revision would mean that the state’s sodomy law would mean those older than 15 can legally consent to sex, says Slate, yet have no right to sexual privacy in actually having sex. Put another way, the state could charge any 16 or 17-year-old with felony sodomy if they chose to have anal or oral sex rather than vaginal sex.

Many teenagers are sexually experienced by the age of 15, including gays. The unwritten message is that Cuccinelli must be targeting gays just as he targeted gays when he advised that state organizations like universities did not have to have policy statements banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Not only is Cuccinelli’s position highly discriminatory against gays and lesbians, it raises troubling questions about what he considers important in Virginia. The Old Dominion faces many problems such as clogged highways, creating jobs, eradicating poverty and improving health care.

Why should what goes on in the bedroom of a legal-aged teenager dominate his focus?