Michael Hamar

What Does Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and the DNC Have in Common with "Gay Rights" Groups? Not Our Interests.

Filed By Michael Hamar | July 14, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

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I have written about the recent Virginia Court decision involving Michael W. Moore - a former resident of Martinsville, Virginia, who was forced to resign from the Virginia Museum of Natural History because he is gay - in numerous places, including legal briefs.

I became involved in the case as Michael Moore's attorney because Moore literally could find no other attorney to assist him in the area - after calling over a dozen attorneys. While Lambda Legal had provided him with the names of "cooperating attorneys," it had no interest in getting involved in the case itself. For reference, Martinsville, Virginia is about 250 miles, or nearly 5 hours on small country roads, from where I live.

Likewise, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Campaign had no interest in getting involved at the outset of the case. Nor did Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who also happens to be the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Oh, and by the way, Virginia has no anti-discrimination law, just the governor's 2006 executive order.

The question is does the governor follow his own orders?

In the aftermath of the ruling of the Martinsville Circuit Court, Governor Kaine's office made the following comments to the Washington Blade:

The governor 'feels very strongly' about non-discrimination in the state workforce, but that the executive order would be enforced within the executive branch of government as opposed to the court system. The executive order remains in place, and it will be enforced as an internal policy. If anybody is found to have been fired or discriminated against based on sexual orientation, they can be dealt with through personnel procedures of the state.

The statement, of course bears no resemblance to what we witnessed throughout this case - even though Moore filed a complaint in accordance with the state's personnel procedures.

Tim_Kaine.jpg

Indeed, Kaine's office seemed to want nothing to do with the matter and the subordinate agency that handled the "investigation" was, in my opinion, utterly incompetent and seemed more dedicated to protecting the offending state agency under Kaine's own Executive Order than protecting Mr. Moore as a state employee.

In short, the Virginia governor doesn't give a flip about LGBTQ issues - except for posturing to gain our votes and campaign contributions. I suspect that he signed Executive Order 1 (2006) to fulfill a promise to LGBTQ organizations in his effort to get elected governor.

That he is now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee ought to severely disturb the gay and lesbian community, given his demonstrated disinterest in enforcing his own Executive Order.

The second issue that this case brings up is the utter lack of support the majority of LGBTQ citizens receive from organizations that proclaim themselves to be the protectors of "our community" rights.

When initially contacted, HRC had absolutely no interest in getting involved because it did not want to upset its "good relationship" with Governor Kaine. Other than e-mailing me a couple of cases, Lambda Legal was likewise missing-in-action, and only re-contacted me after the Circuit Court ruling.

The ACLU was a Johnny-come-lately in the matter, but at least Sharon McGown helpfully assisted on drafting the legal memorandum in support of Moore's appeal petition to the Circuit Court pursuant to the state's personnel procedures. And just last week, HRC belatedly asked for information on the case. As for the Task Force - it never responded - whatsoever.

Unfortunately, Mr. Moore's experience does not seem to be unique in terms of being left to his own devices when victimized by anti-gay discrimination and bigotry. As one of a small number of out gay attorneys in Virginia, I know that vast areas of the state have no gay or gay-friendly attorneys to potentially take on cases on behalf of LGBTQ Virginians.

I also believe that Virginia is not alone in terms of the lack of available counsel to take on LGBTQ-related cases. Yes, Lambda Legal and the ACLU have limited resources and need to select cases carefully.

Something truly needs to be done to provide legal resources for our community in areas where there are no gay-friendly attorneys or where would-be counsel are too intimidated to take on LGBTQ clients in cases where gay rights are involved.

Personally, I wonder if rather than spending money to go to Washington, D.C. soirees and cocktail parties, perhaps HRC and the NGLTF would not better serve our community by allocating more of their funds in support of litigation support for LGBTQ plaintiffs where equality and due process issues are involved.

Those organizations certainly need to be asking some hard questions of Virginia Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine - who seems to have adopted President Obama's habit of making nice sounding statements of support, but not following through with meaningful actions.


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Brandi parker | July 14, 2009 4:53 PM

Don't feel bad the very same thing happen to me I got fired from two jobs and then had another job offer rescinded after they found out from a former employer about my transition. I got the very same answers from both Lamda Legal and HRC as well as from the ACLU none were interested in helping a post op trans women who live's in Roanoke Va, it just wasn't as they put it "high profile enough to make a diff" and therefore they had to spend their time working on highier profile cases. I've been there and done that...sorry .....my best advice is leave Virginia I am.

Brandi Parker

bigolpoofter | July 14, 2009 5:51 PM

Michael, Michael, Michael! Don't you know that good house queers don't bite their political masters, so they can ride some coattails into a better gig one day?! Meanwhile, they bleed their communities economically and further the lie that buying one's way into a big-ticket event makes one an activist.

Bob Summersgill | July 14, 2009 11:36 PM

You didn't mention Equality Virginia. As a group with an explicit focus on Virginia, did they do anything to help?

The usual problem with NGLTF is that they try to be all things to all people. They are a relatively small group with limited resources. I hope that they are learning to be strategic with what they take on.

HRC is not a group that does litigation, as far as I know, but that they are interested only when there is some evidence of sucess is just bad.

ACLU/Virginia has never had the staff or interest in getting involved in GLBT issues. It is nice to see Sharon of the ACLU national office was able to help in some way.

We've been blessed in DC to have the ACLU/National Capital Area to help us. They couldn't be better, other than covering Virginia in their purview.

Perhaps you should take this opportunity to put together a legal group for Virginia like GLAD in New England. Hoping someone else will do it won't get you far. Or at least it hasn't ever gotten me far.