Virginia Attorney General Nominee Obscures Long Record Of Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Obenshain Family Foundation ad

State Sen. Mark Obenshain's (R-VA) campaign highlights his anti-LGBT record

State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-VA), his party’s Republican nominee for Virginia Attorney General, said Thursday that he opposes “discrimination of any kind” and that he has “been clear” that employment discrimination “should not be tolerated in Virginia.” These statements are flatly contradicted by his own record, in which he has consistently supported allowing public employment discrimination against LGBT Virginians.

Democratic nominee State Sen. Mark Herring accepted an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign Thursday, vowing that if elected, he would “be committed to protecting the civil rights of all Virginians,” and would “use the powers of the office to promote equality.”

In a statement, Obenshain told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he supports Gov. Bob McDonnell’s directive against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in his administration:

OBENSHAIN: I have been clear that discriminatory employment practices on any irrelevant basis should not be tolerated in Virginia. I agree with the governor’s executive directive, which prohibits discrimination without a rational basis against any class of persons and as attorney general, I will support that principle. Discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated in Virginia — I want to be an attorney general for all Virginians, and believe that the only factor in hiring and human resource decisions should be ability to do the job.

While Obenshain does not bring himself to mention “sexual orientation,” the McDonnell executive directive he references explicitly does.

But Obenshain’s record does not match that claim. Though a bipartisan super-majority of state Senators and Delegates in 2005 signed statements averring that they would not personally discriminate in employment decisions on the basis of sexual orientation, he declined to do so. Eight years later, he has still never taken this simple step.

In 2010, and again this year Obenshain voted against bills that would have codified this policy and officially banned discrimination against LGBT people in public employment in Virginia.

Obenshain explained his vote, claiming 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 opined that it is employers who choose to discriminate — rather than their LGBT employees — who need to be protected.

Worst of all, Obenshain demonstrated his own discrimination in January, walking out, rather than voting to confirm openly gay judge Tracy Thorne-Begland.

The anti-LGBT Family Foundation of Virginia, which led the charge against the employment non-discrimination bills and Thorne-Begland, gave Obenshain a 100% rating — a dubious accomplishment which his campaign touts as a selling point.