Gay-Baiting Enters Virginia Race
GOP Ads Taunt Democrat, Suggesting Marriage Support
September 7, 2001
By Rhonda Smith
Numerous gay civil rights advocates this week denounced ongoing attempts in
Virginia by the Republican Party to defeat the Democrat candidate for governor
in part by distorting his stance on same-sex marriage.
David Lampo, spokesperson for the Log Cabin Republican Club of Northern
Virginia, said a recent radio advertisement that claimed Mark R. Warner, the
Democratic candidate for governor, supports legalizing same-sex marriage in
Virginia will make winning more difficult for Mark L. Earley, his Republican
"[Same-sex marriage] is not an issue. People dont want to hear
about it," Lampo said. "Our issues are continuing the car tax cut,
reforming the schools, improving transportation, and the legacy of [incumbent]
Gov. [James] Gilmore."
"Why they have to resort to these manufactured issues is perplexing to
us," he added.
The two candidates are scheduled to take part in five debates between now
and Nov. 6, the day of the election.
In another effort to link Warner with supporting same-sex marriages and
civil unions, Earley has been saying on the campaign trail that, unlike his
opponent, he supports "Virginia values, not Vermont values."
Quintin Kendall, Earleys campaign manager, told the Associated Press
Tuesday that "everythings going to have an edge to it from now
The radio spot, which began airing last week on stations in rural regions
of Virginia, appears to be aimed at politically conservative voters. In it
Warner and his Democratic running mates seeking seats as lieutenant governor
and attorney general, are described as "the most liberal ticket in
Richmond Mayor Timothy Kaine and A. Donald McEachin are the Democratic
candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively.
Republican Jay K. Katzen and Libertarian Gary Reams are Kaines
opponents. Republican Jerry W. Kilgore is running against McEachin for the
attorney generals seat.
Only Kaine, a civil rights lawyer, has spoken in favor of granting certain
rights to gay couples in long-term relationships. He said he supports the
right of gay people in long-term relationships to enjoy the "civil
benefits" available to married couples.
"I have never said I supported gay civil unions, gay marriages,"
Kaine told the AP last Friday. "I do believe that people shouldnt be
kicked out of their jobs or discriminated against because of who they
Katzen, a state delegate in the General Assembly for Rappahannock County
and parts of Fauquier and Warren counties since 1994, does not support
same-sex marriages. He has described Kaine as "the extremist" on
this as well as issues related to gun control and the death penalty.
Katzen also recently came under fire for comments in a Richmond weekly
about gay people and HIV/AIDS.
On the radio ad, which is aimed primarily at Warner, a man and woman talk
about the Democratic candidates views on the death penalty, abortion, gun
control, welfare legislation, and same-sex marriage.
"One of [them] wants to legalize gay marriage in Virginia," the
"Wait," the woman replies. "Gay marriage in Virginia?"
"Oh, you havent heard the worst of it," the man adds.
"Mark Warner opposed welfare reform and he opposed the abolition of
parole for violent felons."
Warner has said he opposes same-sex marriage as well as legislation to
repeal Virginias ban on same-sex marriage. In 1997, a year after Congress
approved the Defense of Marriage Act, which grants states the right not to
recognize same-sex marriages in other states, the Virginia General Assembly
passed similar legislation prohibiting same-sex marriages.
Winnie Stachelberg, political director at the Human Rights Campaign in
Washington, D.C., said the anti-gay message the radio spot tries to convey is
"It is sad to see that the Republican candidates have distorted the
records to try to score political points," she said. "Its a
strategy that will backfire. I dont think people want to see this type of
bigotry and discrimination in campaigns."
Kevin Ivers, a spokesperson for the Log Cabin Republicans national
office, said: "By doing what theyre doing, these candidates are making
it more difficult for themselves to win this election. When you run an
inclusive campaign you win. When you dont, you make it all the more
difficult to win."
Tim McFeeley, political director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
in Washington, D.C., echoed Stachelberg.
"The Republicans are misleading people by lying about Warners
stance on these issues," he said, "and its incumbent on everyonenot
just gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender peopleto make sure these
so-called scare tactics dont work."
The Republican Party and Earleys camp, in particular, are using the
same-gender marriage and other hot-button social issues to try to scare voters
in Virginias rural regions and persuade them to support Earley, various
political observers said.
A Washington Post poll in August indicated Warner has an 11-point lead over
Earley among those most likely to vote and is ahead by 14 percentage points
among registered voters. Warners success is most evident in southwest
Virginia, a region grappling with layoffs and a sluggish economy.
Warner, an entrepreneur and millionaire who has never held public office,
is winning supporters in part with a message about economic prosperity. He has
been somewhat less outspoken about social issues, however, but enjoys broad
support among black Virginians. Twelve years ago, Warner managed L. Douglas
Wilders gubernatorial campaign. He also speaks Spanish and has used it
while campaigning in Northern Virginia, where the states Latino population
Earley, a longtime member of the NAACP, has strong
support among politically active Christian conservatives. He opposes adding
gay men and lesbians to the list of groups protected by Virginias hate
crimes law. He also supports retaining the states sodomy or "crimes
against nature" law.
The Post reported that Earleys supporters displayed a handwritten sign
at a Democratic event Sunday that said, "Heterosexuals for Earley."
Another sign contained a more offensive anti-gay reference. Campaign officials
in Earleys office disavowed the signs.
In addition to the radio advertisement, in recent weeks Republicans have
mailed fliers to Virginia residents statewide that describe Warner, Kaine, and
McEachin as having "extreme liberal views on issues ranging from higher
taxes and gay marriages to ending the death penalty."
While Warner, a Presbyterian, has stated that he does not support same-sex
marriage, he has supported other gay civil rights causes.
In July, Warner spoke at an annual summer barbecue sponsored by the
Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club. Adam Ebbin, a spokesperson
for the group and an openly gay member of the Virginia State Central
Democratic Committee, said 150 people attended the event and Warner was
In early August, Warner issued a statement denouncing as "senseless
acts of violence" the assault of several gay people outside a church in
"Random acts of violence are wrong," he said. "This attack
was even more senseless because the individuals were singled out and
victimized for who they are."
David Scoven, interim executive director of Virginians for Justice, a
statewide gay civil rights group based in Richmond, said Warner recently
received a score of 41 points from that organization for his responses to a
candidate questionnaire about his stance on various gay civil rights issues.
Scoven said he received a low score in part because he answered only five
of 13 questions on the survey and outlined his views in a letter instead of
responding directly to the questions posed.
Earley did not respond to the Virginians for Justice survey. William B.
Redpath, the Libertarian candidate for governor, did respond to the survey and
scored 61 points.
About hate crimes, Warner said he supports legislation that includes adding
"sexual orientation" language to current statutes. But Scoven said
he did not mention adding related language to the current law to protect
people based on "gender expression," which was mentioned in a survey
Scoven also said Warner did not answer questions
on the survey about privacy issues, which included addressing whether the
states sodomy law should be abolished. When asked about his stance on the
sodomy law last month, Warner told the AP three times: "I dont think
thats going to pass the legislature anytime soon."
Warner also did not answer a question on the survey about "family
issues" that addressed gay-related adoption and custody concerns. He did,
however, confirm in his letter that he does not support legislation to repeal
Virginias ban on same-sex marriage.
Warner said he supports providing funding for HIV/AIDS services that
involves public-private partnerships. In addition, he said he supports
mandatory programs for "family life education" if they allow
"local discretion" and let parents decide whether their child should
participate. In addition, Warner said he supports legislation that prohibits
"Mark Warner is generally friendly toward substantive gay issues like
hate crimes and non-discrimination," Scoven said. "For most people,
thats good enough in an election.
"Will he ever change his stance about same-sex marriage? My prediction
is: never," he added. "Virginia is just a very conservative
Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginias Center for
Governmental Studies in Charlottesville, said Democrats have lost control of
key statewide seats in Virginia in the past eight years. As a result, they
appear less willing to challenge Democratic candidates like Warner when they
express reluctance to fully support gay causes.
"The Democrats are so desperate to win this year that the various
interest groups in the Democratic Party are giving the ticket a pass," he
said. "They are letting them say whatever they have to say to win."
Ebbin, the openly gay member of the Virginia Central Democratic Committee,
"A lot of us are willing not to make a big deal about gay marriage
when its not a front-burner issue in Virginia," he said. "The
only ones who want to make it a front-burner issue are Jay Katzen, Mark Earley,
and the rest of their henchmen.
"Theres an anti-gay marriage law in Virginia that does not have a
chance to be repealed," he added. "Id rather talk about
employment non-discrimination, hate crimes, and things that have a real chance
of some day advancing."
Officials in Warners campaign office said this week that they did not
know why Warner opposes same-sex marriage.
Norfolk resident Patrick Heck, board chair for Virginians for Justice, said
it is fair for Warner to answer questions about same-sex marriage "as his
heart tells him to."
"I dont think were going to elect a candidate who agrees with
every goal Virginians for Justice hasever," he said. "But the
candidates who do agree with us on some issues should make their views
Of the eight candidates seeking statewide office as governor, lieutenant
governor, and attorney general, only Warner and Redpath responded to the
Virginians for Justice questionnaire, he said.
"The Democrats seem to be denying and scrambling to clarify [their
positions on same-sex marriage] rather than speaking out strongly about their
opinions on this issue. I think its a miscalculation on both sides,"
Heck added. "Virginians are fair-minded and if they were to make strong
public statements against discrimination in all its forms, including based on
sexual orientation, and say lets move on to new issues, they could do
Scoven at Virginians for Justice criticized Katzen, the GOP candidate for
lieutenant governor, for his recent comments about gay people and HIV/AIDS.
In an article published July 31 in Style Weekly in
Richmond, Katzen said he opposed erasing a state law in Virginia that makes
sodomy illegal because he believes it acts as a deterrent to dangerous
"AIDS is the product, sadly, in most cases of
a choice that people have made," he said. "We recognize that
homosexuality is a choice. Its a lifestyle with public-health
Scoven said such comments purposefully misinform
voters about HIV and AIDS.
"That is highly irresponsible," he said.
"Its morally reprehensible to scapegoat a group of people for
Katzen also said that abolishing the states
sodomy law would be "an effort to begin the process of laying the
framework for gay marriage."
Jim Ball, an AIDS activist and alternate board member from Virginia for the
National Stonewall Democrats, said Katzens "lack of compassion and
common sense" should disqualify him from holding public office.
"Weve learned that this kind of garbage sells in parts of the
state," he said. "But its not something the whole Republican
Party is enamored with."
More recently, Katzen came under fire for saying Kaine, his Democratic
opponent for lieutenant governor, would not support holding Boy Scouts of
America meetings in schools because he is a civil rights lawyer who favors
legal protection for gay people.
The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported that Katzen supports the right
of the Boy Scouts to ban gay people from membership.
Kaine, a former Scout with two sons who participate in the organization,
said he has no opinion about whether the Boy Scouts should be allowed to ban
gays from leadership roles.
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