Earlier this month, an audio recording captured an election volunteer for Virginia state Sen. Janet Howell — a Democratic incumbent running for re-election to the state Senate — admitting to “gay-baiting” Republican voters into opposing her openly gay Republican challenger Patrick Forrest. Kavita Imarti, an intoxicated volunteer for Howell, can be heard admitting to Forrest’s field director that the campaign is informing conservative voters of Forrest’s sexuality and claiming that he will push a “homosexual agenda” in schools. “We’re showing your party [is]… prejudiced against someone because of their sexuality,” Imarti shouts on the recording.
Yesterday, reporters asked Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) about the incident during a campaign fundraiser for Forrest. McDonnell responded that Republicans “stand for equal opportunities for all people” and insisted that supporting a gay candidate would not hurt his standing among the party’s more conservative social base:
“I don’t know what she’s doing but I can only say that Patrick and I — and I think all of us in our party — stand for equal opportunities for all people. I think you heard his message about job creation. He’s not focused on divisive social issues. He’s focused on the two things that really matter, getting people back to work and getting our spending and our government under control, and I think that’s what people care about, especially independent voters right now.”
But McDonnell’s own record on issues of “equal rights” is mixed at best. While McDonnell did eventually issue an executive directive prohibiting discrimination “based on factors such as one’s sexual orientation” in state employment, he doesn’t support extending workplace protections to gays and lesbians in the private sector, arguing that “there isn’t really any rampant discrimination on any basis in Virginia.” He also opposes marriage equality and gay and lesbian couples adopting children.