Last edited: February 14, 2005

Resistance in Tradition of Virginia

The Daily Progress, July 6, 2003
Box 9030, Charlottesville, VA 22906
Fax: 804-978-7252

By Bob Gibson, Charlottesville Daily Progress

Thirty or forty years ago, Richmond’s reaction to a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions advancing gay rights and allowing affirmative action at state universities would have been sharply negative.

The General Assembly hardly distinguished itself in the mid-1950s when massive resistance was crafted to greet the court’s historic 1954 ruling that struck down “separate but equal” segregated schools.

That resistance failed and tarred the state’s political life for a generation or more.

Instead of massive resistance, opponents of gay rights and foes of affirmative action may try passive resistance to the law of the land emanating from the court.

Virginia resisters will try to paint gay rights as some sort of great moral threat to society and rally around the institution of marriage as if it were under some grave threat or imminent attack.

They also may resist, somewhat passively and symbolically, legislative attempts to wipe Virginia’s now obsolete anti-sodomy law off the books.

“I think we ought to clean up the code, Del. Mitchell Van Yahres, D-Charlottesville, said last week.

Van Yahres wondered if Republican conservatives who want smaller government would try to take the broom to the anti-sodomy law that the court’s landmark 6-3 ruling in its Texas case rendered null and void.

“It’s obsolete” and cluttering up the state code with stale and unenforceable language, he said.

Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle County, said he has not heard of any attempts to craft legislation stemming from the court’s gay rights ruling or its pair of decisions in Michigan cases that allow affirmative action but forbid the use of points awarded to all college applicants based solely on race.

As for the state’s ancient and now-dead anti-sodomy law, “I think the Supreme Court has ruled,” Bell said. “The Supreme Court decision has taken a law that was rarely, if ever, enforced and made it unenforceable.”

Van Yahres called the Supreme Court decisions “reasonable rulings.”

Bell said the anti-sodomy statute may be taken off the books “in the long run” but he is not sure how or when. The code doesn’t get scrubbed clean every year.

The Republican did indicate it would surprise him if there are any attempts in the General Assembly next year to undermine or contradict the recent Supreme Court decisions.

The affirmative action rulings are unlike the gay rights landmark case in that they leave lots of options open to the universities and the states, Bell said.

“I have not heard of anything being proposed” to curb the use of affirmative action in Virginia college admissions, the Republican delegate said.

Many conservative Republicans are wary of affirmative action, calling it a tool that can be used to deny qualified white applicants spaces in universities if less qualified minority applicants are boosted ahead of them in the admissions process.

Although President Bush has welcomed the court rulings, he and other party leaders are under pressure from conservative activists to push only judicial candidates who oppose the use of affirmative action.

The hottest battleground for those resisters may be the fights in Washington and in Richmond over appointments and confirmations of judges.

Conservative hot social litmus tests will be applied and decried as true believers in some of the old ways of discrimination seek to shape courts and undo what this Republican majority U.S. Supreme Court has done.

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