Posts tagged "Virginia"

A federal judge ruled Virginia’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional late Thursday.

From the ruling:

The Court finds Va. Const. Art. I, § 15-A, Va. Code §§ 20-45.2, 20-45.3, and any other Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia’s recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional. These laws deny Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen wrote that the constitutional right to equality should apply to all, including same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.

"Our Constitution declares that ‘all men’ are created equal. Surely this means all of us," wrote Wright Allen, an Eastern District of Virginia judge in Norfolk. ”While ever vigilant for the wisdom that can come from the voices of our voting public, our courts have never long tolerated the perpetuation of laws rooted in unlawful prejudice. One of the judiciary’s noblest endeavors is to scrutinize law that emerge from such roots.”

Wright Allen stayed her order to allow an appeal, meaning nothing immediately changes for same-sex couples in the state.


Mark Herring, Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, recently announced his support for gay couples seeking marriage licenses.

"After thorough legal review, I have now concluded that Virginia’s ban on marriage between same sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on two grounds: marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender," Herring said in January.

h/t: Huff Post

Virginia Republican state delegate Bob Marshall is preparing a bid for the House seat currently held by retiring Rep. Frank Wolf, according to a Virginia-based conservative blog. This would set up a challenge to fellow right-wing state delegate and former Clinton-hunter Barbara Comstock.

Just in case you aren’t familiar with Marshall, here is a quick refresher on some of his most extreme positions:

1. Disabled Children Are God’s Punishment For Abortion

At a 2010 press conference attacking Planned Parenthood, Marshall said that “the number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically” because “when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children.” He called disabled children a “special punishment” from God on women who have had abortions.

It is no wonder that Marshall sponsored a personhood bill that would ban abortion in call cases along with some forms of birth control, one of several bills he proposed that would curtail abortion rights and contraception coverage.

2. Ban Gay Service Members From The National Guard

Marshall reacted to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by proposing legislation to prohibit “active homosexuals” from serving in the Virginia National Guard, warning that the end of the anti-gay ban would “jeopardize our alliances,” ruin the military and possibly lead to a military draft. Marshall said that if he were in the military he wouldn’t trust gay service members because they might give him a sexually transmitted infection or harass him: “It’s a distraction when I’m on the battlefield and I have to concentrate on the guy 600 yards away, am I worrying about this guy whose got eyes on me?”

3. Anti-Gay Crusade

Marshall has staunchly defended of Virginia’s unconstitutional sodomy law, successfully pushed to block the appointment of an openly gay judge and attempted to stop the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank from flying a rainbow flag, warning that LGBT equality “undermines the American economy.”

He also complained that anti-gay activists are being treated in the same way as Dred Scott.

h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW

h/t: WaPo

Virginia’s attorney general will announce Thursday that he has concluded that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, local news providers reported early Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Democrat General Mark R. Herring confirmed that he will not defend the ban in a case in federal court in Norfolk in which two same-sex couples are seeking to have it overturned, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Herring will file a brief in the case supporting the challenge, the Washington Post reported.

The Virginia State Senate control goes to the Democrats, 20+1 (Northam). 

The Virginia House of Delegates remain under GOP control. 


Federal authorities charged former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife with illegally accepting gifts from a Virginia donor in exchange for helping promote the donor’s business.

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted on 14 counts in a Richmond federal court, the Washington Post reported.

The McDonnells accepted more than $165,000 in loans and gifts, including a Rolex inscribed personally for Bob McDonnell, from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The McDonnells promoted Williams’ business, and helped Williams meet with Virginia officials.

The couple was informed late last year they were going to be indicted, but authorities later deferred the decision about whether to indict to the new year.

McDonnell, a Republican, was elected in 2009 and concluded his single term this month.


Almost overnight, Virginia has emerged as a critical state in the nationwide fight to grant gay men and women the right to wed.

This purple state was once perceived as unfriendly and even bordering on hostile to gay rights. That’s changed after a seismic political shift in the top three elected offices, from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats who support gay marriage.

Two federal lawsuits challenging the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage are moving forward, and a hearing on one of the cases is scheduled for Jan. 30.

With the recent court gains in Utah and Oklahoma, gay rights advocates are heartened by the new mood in Virginia. Symbolically as well, they say, the challenges of the state’s gay marriage ban resonate because of the founding state’s history of erecting a wall between church and state and a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a Virginia couple and a past taboo: interracial marriage.

Click on the headline to read the full story.

~ Richmond Times-Dispatch


After taking a drubbing in last year’s state elections, Virginia Republicans are debating whether their party has come to be defined by its extremists. But in a congressional district in Northern Virginia, one of the state’s main instigators of culture warfare, state Sen. Richard H. “Dick” Black, is running in the Republican primary to replace longtime GOP moderate Rep. Frank Wolf, who is retiring. And he’s guaranteed to ignite wedge-issue passion. Exhibit A: As a state legislator, Black opposed making spousal rape a crime, citing the impossibility of convicting a husband accused of raping his wife “when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie, and so forth.”

Black has referred to emergency contraception, which does not cause abortions, as "baby pesticide." Black also fought to block a statue of Abraham Lincoln at a former Confederate site in Richmond. He wasn’t sure, he explained at the time, that statues of Lincoln belonged in Virginia. He has argued that abortion is a worse evil than slavery. And once, to demonstrate why libraries should block pornography on their computers, Black invited a TV reporter to film him using a library terminal to watch violent rape porn.

In 1998, Black was elected a delegate to the Virginia House. He sparked multiple battles over social issues until he was voted out of office in 2005. But Black wasn’t done. In 2011, after moving several times around Northern Virginia in search of a friendly district, Black was voted back into the Legislature, this time to the state Senate.

In the GOP nomination fight to replace Wolf, Black, who commands substantial support among the conservative grassroots, would have a strong chance to beat his moderate opponents if the party chooses to nominate candidates through a convention, rather than a primary. (Black sometimes raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his House races. Tea partiers and social conservatives have dominated Virginia Republicans’ nominating contests in recent years.) The party will decide between the two on January 23. Republicans have held the seat Black is seeking for 14 years, but the congressional district voted for Mitt Romney by only a slim margin in 2012. A not-so-conservative Republican nominee may be key to keeping the seat in Republican hands. Since returning to the Legislature in 2011, Black has preferred to present himself as a fiscal conservative, not a fire-breathing social conservative. But he may still have to defend his years as Virginia’s foremost far-right warrior.

Black entered politics in the late 1990s after retiring as a military prosecutor. He spoke frequently to media outlets about sexual assault in the military, and called military rape “as predictable as human nature.” “Think of yourself at 25,” Black told a newspaper in 1996. “Wouldn’t you love to have a group of 19-year-old girls under your control, day in, day out?”

Black’s first political position was with the Loudoun County Library Board in Northern Virginia, where he wrote a policy blocking pornography on library computers. The move drew national attention. First Amendment litigation against the Loudoun County Library Board struck down Black’s restrictions and wound up costing the county $100,000. During that time period, Loudoun librarians say they only ever received one complaint about porn on their computers—against Black, when he pulled his rape pornography stunt.

Still, Black used the controversy to vault himself into the Virginia general assembly. From 1998 to 2006, when a Democratic challenger unseated him, although he was rarely successful in passing legislation, Black never missed an opportunity to be at the front lines of every social battle in the statehouse.

The 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, for example, inspired Black to suggest legislation requiring Virginia students to address their teachers as “Ma’am,” “Sir,” “Mr.,” “Ms.,” or “Mrs.,” because, Black explained, “The counterculture revolution of the ’70s took the war into the classroom. Before that time, public schools were a model of decorum, and then we began this thing we’ve seen play out at Columbine.”

In 2003, Black led a fight to prevent a statue of Abraham Lincoln seated with his son Tad from gracing the grounds of the Tredegar Iron Works, a Civil War-era foundry that supplied the Confederate army with cannons. “Putting a statue to [Lincoln] there is sort of like putting the Confederate flag at the Lincoln Memorial,” Black told the Washington Post, adding that the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC ought to be enough. Black even asked the Virginia Attorney General, Republican Jerry Kilgore, to investigate whether any state laws prohibited the National Park Service, which leases Tredegar, from erecting the statue. (None did.)

In 2002, as the Virginia general assembly repealed a ban on spousal rape prosecution, Black wondered if it was really possible for a husband to rape his wife. He said changing the law could cause a man “enormous fear of the damage to his reputation” if his wife ever filed a false rape claim. Last month, after the Weekly Standard highlighted Black’s remarks on spousal rape, a member of Black’s congressional campaign staff emailed the Loudoun Progress to say, ”Black was not taking a position for or against marital rape.”*

As a member of the general assembly, Black introduced the legislation—later copied by then-state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP’s 2014 gubernatorial candidate—that would allow Virginians to purchase “Choose Life” license plates, with funds going to Virginia crisis pregnancy centers. Since the plates became available in 2009, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia calculates they have raised $223,000 for these facilities, where staff have been found to tell women, falsely, that abortion increases their chance of breast cancer and infertility.

For two years in a row, Black introduced legislation requiring women younger than 18 to provide a notarized note from a parent before having an abortion. To justify the bill, he said abortion was a greater evil than segregation or slavery. In 2005, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, he promoted a bill that would have required abortion providers to tell women that a fetus being aborted 20 weeks after conception may be able to feel pain, a medically unsupported claim. Black sent senators plastic figures of fetuses with a letter asking, “Would you kill this child?” as a Senate committee prepared to vote on the bill.

Black was at his most virulent when targeting Virginia’s same-sex couples. He championed legislation to ban same-sex couples from adopting children, claiming that gay men and women are more prone to violence, alcoholism, and suicide. When it became clear the bill would fail, according to a 2005 Washington Post article, he amended it to require adoption agents to investigate whether the prospective parents were “known to engage in current voluntary homosexual activity.”

In 2003, Black tried to pass legislation preventing same-sex couples to apply for low-interest home loans from the Virginia Housing and Development Authority. The current policy, he explained, "subsidize[s] sodomy and adultery." Black even, in 2005, urged his constituents to picket a local high school that had staged a student’s one-act play about a gay high school football player. Portraying same-sex relationships in “a cute or favorable light,” he contended,put children at risk of contracting HIV. “If I’m the last person on the face of this Earth to vote against legalizing sodomy,” Black once said, “I’ll do it.”

Black’s campaign and state Senate office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

A new TV ad from Jennifer Wexton — a former state prosecutor who is running for the Virginia state senate seat that will be vacated by Attorney General-elect Mark Herring – has so upset Tea Party Nation president Judson Phillips that he is accusing her of being worse than murderers, rapists, and robbers.

In the ad, Wexton says, “as a prosecutor, I put violent offenders in prison. In the Virginia Senate, I’ll fight just as hard against Tea Party Republicans who would take away a woman’s health care and her right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.”

The right-wing Media Research Center jumped on the ad, claiming that Wexton “made a shocking comparison between violent rapists that she once tried as a prosecutor to ‘Tea Party Republicans’ in the Virginia legislature.”

This moved Phillips to post a screed on his blog, which he also emailed to his group’s members, saying that Wexton “is worse than any of the people I put away” as a district attorney in Tennessee , including those accused of robbery, rape and murder.

“During my career as a prosecutor, I sent people to prison for some horrible things,” Phillips writes. “As far as I am concerned, I would rather see one of them elected than Jennifer Wexton. That is how extreme she is and how far to the left she is.”


h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW

h/t: David Nir at Daily Kos Elections

Despite sweeping losses in this month’s off-year elections, Virginia Republicans are hoping that the botched rollout of the health-care law will drag down Democrats across the country in 2014 — including U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner.

But if Republicans want revenge after their drubbing by Democrats this year, they must overcome some familiar hurdles.

The first is that Warner remains extremely popular, polls show, and has the wealth to fund a formidable reelection campaign. The second is that Republicans lack a big-name candidate willing to take him on, and they may not get one as long as they stick with their plan to select a nominee at a party convention rather than in a primary.

“I don’t see a whole lot of vulnerability for Warner, and even if the environment gets pretty awful, you still need a credible candidate,” said Jennifer Duffy, who covers Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Both the Cook Political Report and the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report rate Warner’s race as “safe” for Democrats, meaning a partisan flip is highly unlikely.

Warner, who declined to comment for this article, has long enjoyed high favorability ratings. Quinnipiac University survey in September gave him a 61 percent job-approval score, although that was before the Affordable Care Act’s rollout began affecting the poll numbers of President Obama and the Democrats.

To some in the GOP, the answer is obvious: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II should pivot from his Nov. 5 gubernatorial race, which he lost by less than 3 percentage points to Terry McAuliffe (D), to a quest for the U.S. Senate. But that looks unlikely.

In mid-November, Cuccinelli told The Washington Post that he saw the race against Warner as “tempting” because of the controversy surrounding the health-care law.


Beyond Cuccinelli, the field appears wide open — and thin.

So far, two little-known Republicans have entered the race: Shak Hill, a Centreville financial planner, and Howie Lind, a former Pentagon official and lobbyist from McLean. Both men are military veterans who have worked on Virginia’s 10th Congressional District Republican Committee.

Neither has mounted a big-ticket campaign before or demonstrated he can raise the kind of cash necessary to keep pace with Warner.

Patrick Murphy, Lind’s campaign manager, said Lind would be competitive because “he has a deep background in defense issues, which Mark Warner lacks,” and because Warner is “one of Barack Obama’s most reliable wingmen in the Senate.”

Hill acknowledged in an interview that he was “the underdog” in the race, but he compared himself to U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who both won tough primaries with support from the tea party movement.

“They were also at very low name ID when they entered their respective races,” Hill said.

Through Sept. 30, Hill had raised $118,000 — nearly all of it from his own pocket — and Lind had raised $83,000. Warner had $5.9 million in the bank as of that date.

Among better-known Republicans, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling are not expected to run. State Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (Harrisonburg) is awaiting a recount in his tight race for attorney general and probably won’t say anything more about his future until he knows the outcome of that election.

E.W. Jackson, the Chesapeake minister who lost the lieutenant governor’s race this year by a wide margin, has yet to say what he will do next.

“I am still thinking about the future, and far from ready to make any announcement at this time,” Jackson said in an e-mailed statement.

Jackson won the nomination for the post at a state party convention over six candidates who were mostly better-known and better-funded than he was. His choppy campaign and convincing loss are reason enough for some Republicans to hope that the party will hold a 2014 primary. 

h/t: WaPo

Even if Democrat Mark Herring ends up with more votes than his Republican rival Mark Obenshain in the tightly contested Virginia attorney general’s race, he could still lose.

Herring is currently ahead of Obenshain by a follicle–the current official count states that Herring has 164 more votes than Obenshain out of more than two million cast. A recount is all but guaranteed and litigation seems likely. But even if after the dust clears Herring remains in the lead, under Virginia law, Obenshain could contest the result in the Republican dominated Virginia legislature, which could declare Obenshain the winner or declare the office vacant and order a new election.

“If they can find a hook to demonstrate some sort of irregularity, then there’s nothing to prevent them from saying our guy wins,” says Joshua Douglas, an election law expert and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law.  “There’s no rules here, besides outside political forces and public scrutiny.”

An election contest is a specific post-election procedure for disputing the official outcome of an election. Different states have different rules for election contests–some put them in the hands of the courts, others in the hands of the legislature. Obenshain couldn’t simply contest the election out of the blue. He’d have to argue that some sort of irregularity affected the result. Still, Virginia law is relatively vague in explaining what would justify an election contest, and historical precedent suggests that co-partisans in the legislature are unlikely to reach a decision that hurts their candidate.

“History shows that contests in the legislature are generally more politicized than if they’re adjudicated in the judiciary,” says Edward Foley, a professor at Moritz College of Law. That applies to both parties–but it’s Republicans who have the majority in the Virginia General Assembly. The Virginia state senate is evenly split, but Republicans have the majority in the state house. A spokesperson for Obenshain didn’t respond when asked directly if, after exhausting all other avenues, Obenshain would pursue an election contest.


That discrepancy could be the basis for a court challenge, because legal experts believe the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore requires jurisdictions within a state have to have uniform rules for counting votes. But if even if Obenshain loses in court, he could turn to the Virginia legislature with an election contest. The law states that Obenshain needn’t prove that Fairfax’s decision to allow more time for voters to argue their eligibility in order to go forward with an election contest, he need only “specific allegations which, if proven true, would have a probable impact on the outcome of the election.”

Obenshain may not have to prove that an irregularity would definitely have swung the election. “Virginia law permits a contest where a candidate can show a ‘probable impact’ on the result of an election, which is a relatively lax standard compared to other states,” says Foley.

Nevertheless there is a substantial political risks to this approach. Virginia Republicans could incur a severe political backlash if Virginians see them as thwarting the will of the electorate or subverting the results of an election simply because they didn’t like the outcome. Between a recount and potential litigation, we’re also still a long way away from a potential election contest.

Yet a campaign to persuade voters that the close election was simply the result of Democratic shenanigans at the polls isn’t inconceivable, especially with a base convinced that in-person voter fraud, which is very rare, is a deciding factor in elections. If after all options have been exhausted, Obenshain decides he wants to take his case to the state legislature, the only thing stopping Republicans from ordering a new election or declaring him the winner would be fear of a political backlash or their own self-restraint.

“It’s absurd to have a partisan legislature have the final say in who wins a close election, particularly with so few standard to guide it,” says Douglas. But it could happen.

If the Virginia GOP decides to steal the election for Attorney General to put in Mark Obenshain instead of Mark Herring, who was duly elected by the people of Virginia for that spot, then the state’s GOP will be hurt severely as a form of backlash.