The Republican statewide ticket in next Tuesday’s Virginia elections consists of three of the most anti-LGBT figures in Virginia political history. But as polls show a majority of Virginians now supporting marriage equality and employment non-discrimination, gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli II, lieutenant governor nominee E.W. Jackson Sr., and attorney general nominee Mark Obenshain have each moved in recent weeks to obscure his pro-discrimination history.
Jackson, a pastor and unsuccessful 2012 Senate candidate, has said gays and lesbians are “very sick people, psychologically and emotionally” whose minds are perverted. When news broke this week that Jackson had once claimed the U.S. Armed Forces are going to be punished by God because of the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Jackson took to television to simply deny having ever made the comments. Responding to his assurances that the quote was “absolutely, categorically not true,” Right Wing Watch posted the video exposing his apparent lie. Notably, Jackson said in August that Virginians in their Lieutenant Governor “someone who is honest with the people of Virginia and won’t play politics as usual.”
Cuccinelli, the current Virginia Attorney General and a former State Senator whose anti-LGBT obsession may have helped sexual predators go free and who opposed any legal recognition of what he terms, “what they’d like to refer to as ‘homosexual families,’” 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.” 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.” Called out in a debate last month by Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe for the comments, Cuccinelli called the quote an “offensively false” personal attack.
Obenshain, a current State Senator, has also tried to obscure his own long anti-LGBT record. In July, he said that discrimination based on sexual orientation or any other “irrelevant basis” must “not be tolerated in Virginia,” and endorsed employment protections for LGBT state employees. 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 a ban on public employment discrimination against LGBT people. 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 more important to protect employers who choose to discriminate than their LGBT employees.
With anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council‘s PAC working to elect Cuccinelli and Jackson — and prominent anti-LGBT donors like Pat Robertson backing Obenshain — it seems unlikely Virginians will be fooled.