At its nominating convention Saturday, the Republican Party of Virginia selected three candidates for the November 2013 statewide elections. Their selections — Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II for governor, Bishop E.W. Jackson for lieutenant governor, and State Senator Mark Obenshain for attorney general — represent three of the most vocally anti-LGBT figures in the history Virginia politics.
Over his seven-and-a-half years as a state senator and his four year as attorney general, Cuccinelli earned a reputation as Virginia’s Todd Akin. He opposes even the most basic legal protections for LGBT people because he believes same-sex relationships are immoral — previously explaining, “My view is that homosexual acts, not homosexuality, but homosexual acts are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong. And I think in a natural law based country it’s appropriate to have policies that reflect that.” Even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case that such bans were unconstitutional, he helped defeat an effort to repeal the state law making consensual sodomy a felony. This maneuver came back to haunt him earlier this year, when prosecutors tried to make use of the law to prosecute a statutory rape case and courts rejected the case on constitutional grounds.
He has actively pushed for state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent any legal recognition of what he terms, “what they’d like to refer to as ‘homosexual families,’” authoring a resolution calling for a federal amendment to invalidate any same-sex marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or “other relationship analogous to marriage.” He has opined that “giving public sanction to homosexual marriage ends up redefining marriage and it’s certain to harm children.” He even opposed a state bill that allowed private companies to voluntarily provide health insurance benefits to employees’ domestic partners, warning it might “encourage this type of behavior.” His advisory opinion that Virginia’s public colleges and universities should rescind their nondiscrimination policies was called “reprehensible” by a former Republican state legislator. As recently as February, he reaffirmed his fealty to Virginia’s marriage inequality amendment, saying, “Virginians decided this in 2006 that we were going to respect traditional marriage… I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
After unsuccessfully attempting to block a non-binding resolution honoring a Richmond-based LGBT charitable group, Cuccinelli explained, “When you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.”
As a pastor and unsuccessful 2012 Senate candidate, Jackson has never been shy about expressing his strong opposition to LGBT people. He believes gays and lesbians are “very sick people, psychologically and emotionally” whose minds are perverted. He has also said, “Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of.”
In launching his “Exodus Now!” movement to encourage African Americans to leave the Democratic party because his opposition to same-sex marriage and government endorsement of religion, he claimed “Democrats are engaged in a concerted effort to do away with all symbols of our Judeo-Christian culture.” He termed the inclusion of marriage equality in the Democratic Party platform in 2012, “a Declaration of War against Bible believing Christians.” His campaign website highlights his opposition to same-sex marriage, observing “Any other arrangement will never be a ‘marriage’ no matter what anyone calls it. This has been the definition for thousands of years, and it is disappointing that we have come to a place where radical activists, politicians, lawyers and judges arrogantly seek to change that definition and turn history, biology and reality upside down.”
He supports reinstating a ban on gay and lesbian service members, believes there is a “direction connection” between homosexuality and pedophilia, and thinks that people can be “delivered from homosexuality.” He also believes that celebrating Gay Pride Month only serves to “further balkanize us,” as sexual orientation is not something to be celebrated. He has also been active with the Family Foundation of Virginia, the Commonwealth’s leading anti-LGBT organization.
Over a decade in the Virginia Senate, Obenshain has been among the most vocal opponents of LGBT equality in an already anti-LGBT caucus. Not only did he repeatedly vote against a proposal to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by the state government, he refused to even offer such protections to his own office employees. He claimed legal protections against LGBT discrimination would give “an avenue for filing lawsuits and grievances for perceived slights or for no perceived slight at all.” He later explained that he believes it is employers who choose to discriminate — rather than their LGBT employees — who need to be protected.
This year, Obenshain authored Virginia’s license to discriminate law to protect the “rights” of religious and political student organizations on college campuses to reject potential members and leaders if their beliefs are contrary to the organization’s “religious or political mission.” He also backed Virginia’s law allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT families. Additionally, he walked out of the Senate, rather than vote for an openly gay judge.
Asked in the primary about Virginia’s marriage inequality amendment, Obenshain defended the rule: “I believe that marriage is an institution to be entered into by one man and one woman. I support Virginia marriage amendment, I supported it, and I continue to support it… I would not have a moment’s difficulty in standing up and defending it in court.” He incredibly added, “The marriage amendment does not create discrimination.”