LGBT Issues Rising in Virginia AG Race
State Sen. Mark Herring (D-Loudoun, Fairfax counties), the Democratic candidate for Attorney General of Virginia, has launched an LGBT-rights offensive against his GOP opponent, state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg, Rockingham, Rappahannock, Page, Warren, Shenandoah counties). The Herring campaign sent an email blast July 13 citing a Think Progress article accusing Obenshain of ’’obscuring’’ his record on LGBT rights. Two days later, the Herring campaign issued a statement countering an Obenshain claim that he opposes discrimination.
The Saturday email blast alleged that Obenshain has ’’voted in lock-step with the anti-LGBT organization The Family Foundation.’’ The foundation is arguably Virginia’s most notoriously conservative ’’family values’’ organization. Obenshain was one of nine state senators to receive a 100 percent rating from The Family Foundation on its 2012-2013 report card.
During the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions, Obenshain largely backed bills that would curtail LGBT rights and voted against others that would expand such rights. He voted in favor of the so-called ’’conscience clause’’ amendment to allow adoption agencies receiving state funds to discriminate against prospective adoptive or foster parents based on a variety of factors, including sexual orientation. He also backed a bill that would allow student groups at Virginia colleges and universities to discriminate against potential members.
Obenshain was one of 12 senators, all Republicans, to vote against SB701, a bill that would have prohibited discrimination against LGBT people in public employment during the 2013 session. He also refused to sign a statement pledging to LGBT-rights organization Equality Virginia that he would not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity in his Senate office hiring during the 2012 session.
In a story published July 11, Obenshain told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he agreed with an executive directive issued by current Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) that prohibits ’’discrimination without a rational basis’’ against any group, but that does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity, as did previous executive orders by two former governors, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D).
’’I have been clear that discriminatory employment practices on any irrelevant basis should not be tolerated in Virginia,’’ Obenshain told the Times-Dispatch. ’’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 the ability to do the job.’’