Last edited: February 14, 2005

Lobby Issues More Complete Guide On Gay-Rights Issues

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, October 28, 1999

By John-Henry Doucette, The Virginian-Pilot

Ken Warrington is gay and he votes.

Mostly, he says, he's a politically active Democrat.

That's the strongest affiliation the 55-year-old Norfolk man holds, mostly because he grew up in a family where leaning a little left was a prerequisite for sitting down at the dinner table.

"I'm not a one-issue voter, for one thing," Warrington said. "I might be gay, but what are your laws on transportation? Guns? On abortions? Then it comes (to) where do you stand on gay and lesbian issues?"

To help all voters get a better handle on where candidates stand on issues that affect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Virginians, a statewide lobbying agency has published a scorecard and legislative summary since 1991.

Virginians for Justice board chairman Patrick Heck said that the group did not widely circulate its scorecard until 1997, when more politicians began answering the survey upon which part of it is based, meaning it could inform more voters in different parts of the state.

The legislative scorecard and survey results are available online at

This year, perhaps 40 candidates for the General Assembly answered the survey, though most responses came from Democrats and independents, Heck said. So called "gay-issues" are becoming easier to speak of, he said.

"I think the power of the gay vote is real," Heck said. "And it's not just gay people. It's the gay-supporting people, the parents, the family, the neighbors."

The lobbying group ranked all incumbents on their voting records during the last General Assembly session on issues such as:

  • The inclusion of sexual orientation in state hate crimes laws, which currently allow additional civil and criminal penalties to be levied against those who victimize on the basis of race, color, national origin or religion.
  • Decriminalization of "crimes against nature" law acts, so long as they are noncommercial and between consenting adults. Gay rights advocates say these laws, often mentioned as "sodomy laws," may be used to target homosexuals and amount to state control of bedroom activity.
  • Ensuring health and sex education programs will be offered statewide at public schools.
  • Funding for the study, prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS.

Warrington is not a member of Virginians for Justice, but is on the mailing list, which he uses. He uses the guide to help determine how tolerant politicians are, he said.

Heck has done the same to develop a picture of which candidates support gay rights locally and in Northern Virginia, two urban areas where more politicians answered their surveys.

"And what do all of them have in common?" Heck asked of the politicians who responded.

"They're African-American," he said. "The black caucus has been very supportive of gay issues. They understand discrimination."

[Home] [News] [Virginia]