During December and the holiday season we typically think of family, friends, warmth and happiness as we celebrate the season with lights and good cheer. We also find ourselves reviewing the year past and look toward hopefully better times in the coming year.
But even overshadowing the Christmas story in the Bible there are dark overtones and malignant forces, best personified by King Herod and the murder of innocents as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18. While many scholars question the historicity of the account in Matthew, the passage does make clear that even in happy times, one needs to be aware of possible impending danger.
Here in Virginia in the political realm, that impending danger in 2013 is the gubernatorial candidacy of Ken Cuccinelli, the all but crowned Republican nominee for the November 13, 2013 electoral contest.
Cuccinelli - Cooch" or "Kookinelli" to many in the political blogosphere - personifies why I left the Republican Party some years ago after having held a position on the City Committee for the GOP in Virginia Beach for eight years. He is an extremist on virtually every issue and poses, in my view, a clear and present danger to the rights and freedoms of all Virginians (other than, perhaps, angry white evangelical Christians).
While his campaign website talks about "freedom" and "liberty," his actions demonstrate that he holds the concept of religious freedom in contempt. Like his religious extremist supporters at the Family Foundation (an affiliate of Focus on the Family and the hate group, Family Research Council), Cuccinelli believes that religious freedom equates to far right conservative Christians being allowed to impose their beliefs on all Virginians.
His campaign website also goes on and on about the Affordable Health Care Act ("AHCA"), aka "Obamacare" and decries it as an unconstitutional law. One can only assume that Kookinelli was too busy drinking Kool-Aid to notice the Supreme Court decision handed down on June 28, 2012 which upheld the AHCA as a permissible exercise of the federal government's power of taxation.
In addition, Kookinelli's website talks ad nausea about how "Ken has taken a leading role nationally in the effort to overturn the unconstitutional federal healthcare bill (the Affordable Care Act) and he has fought against unconstitutional and illegal overreaches committed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Labor Relations Board." Unfortunately, the website ignores the inconvenient fact that Cuccinelli has lost every case he has filed challenging laws that apparently only he and fellow Kool-Aid drinkers perceive to be "unconstitutional."
Compounding Cuccinelli's frightening agenda is that he seeks to diminish or deny legal rights and protections to Virginians other than his favored sphere of far right Christians and angry white men - the very same agenda that is credited with causing Mitt Romney to lose the 2012 election. The following is a summary of Cuccinelli's positions on issues and the likely agenda he will pursue if elected governor:
1. WOMEN'S RIGHTS: He wants an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. His past campaign websites have stressed that "Ken believes that human life begins at conception, and that human beings should be respected and protected from conception to natural death." and that "Ken would seek to require sonograms to be part of a 24-hour waiting period with an informed consent requirement. Ken opposes abortions that are not for the purpose of saving the mother's life." And over the course of his political career, he has pushed to defund Planned Parenthood and embryonic stem cell research and for "safety" regulations for abortion providers designed to force clinics to close. His "ultimate goal" he has said, is to "make abortion disappear in America."
2. LGBT RIGHTS: He does not believe LGBT people deserve any legal protections whatsoever and has stated that he believes homosexual acts are "intrinsically wrong". In the wake of the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down the remaining sodomy laws, including Virginia's, Cuccinelli still voted against repealing the Virginia sodomy statute which mandated a felony conviction. But his anti-gay animus gets even worse. Cuccinelli has pushed for state and federal constitutional amendments to prevent any legal recognition of what he terms "homosexual families" and he opposed a state bill that allowed private companies to voluntarily provide health insurance benefits to employees' domestic partners (fortunately the bill passed). More recently, he issued an advisory opinion to Virginia's public colleges and universities directing that they should rescind their non-discrimination policies to delete references to sexual orientation and gender identity.
3. BLACKS AND VOTER ID LAWS: Cuccinelli has vigorously supported voter ID laws which disproportionately disenfranchise blacks and other minorities. He has even suggested that Barack Obama stole the 2012 election arguing Obama lost "every one" of the states with photo identification requirements for voting, yet won re-election. Numerous studies have shown that voter fraud is a figment of the GOP's imagination and that, in truth, Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.
4. IMMIGRATION: The Cooch wants an Arizona-style anti-immigrant policy and would encourage self-deportation. Among other things to further his anti-immigrant stances, he has opposed in-state tuition for undocumented students, embraced limits on the number of people who can live in a house, and supported civil litigation which enables competitors to sue when a rival employer allegedly "knowingly" hires illegal aliens. He opposes all immigration reform efforts which he equates to "amnesty. Consistent with these views in 2010, Cuccinelli wrote an opinion that concluded that Virginia law enforcement officers, including conservation officers, may, like Arizona police officers, inquire into the immigration status of persons stopped or arrested. Cuccinelli also joined an amicus brief defending key provisions of Arizona's immigration reform law which was declared to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. A review of Cuccinelli's campaign website makes it clear that the jihad against immigrants has not ended in Cuccinelli's alternate universe.
5. CLIMATE CHANGE: During the last decade Hampton Roads has been hit by four severe storms - Hurricanes Isabel, Irene and Sandy and the 2009 Nor'Ida storm - that clearly demonstrate that the world's climate is changing. Nonetheless, Cuccinelli remains an extreme climate change denier. He has used his position as Attorney General to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist alleging that a fraud had been worked against taxpayers. Both a Virginia Circuit Court and the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Cuccinelli was wrong and lacked the legal authority to undertake such a inquisition. He also lost his federal lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
6. GUN CONTROL: Cuccinelli opposes all meaningful restrictions on gun ownership, including assault weapons, even after the horrific massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. In fact, his campaign website brags that he has:
- Worked for the repeal of unreasonable restrictions on law-abiding concealed carry permit holders and worked with other states for reciprocity between states that issue concealed carry permits (for example, a concealed carry holder in Virginia would be allowed to carry and conceal in any other state with similar laws).
- Drafted and successfully passed legislation that stopped some liberal county governments from requiring duplicate background checks via the U.S. Mail when purchasing a firearm, resulting -- as they intended -- in a waiting period. While Ken supports the current process of instant background checks at the point of sale, his legislation eliminated local governments' attempts to impose waiting periods with the additional, duplicative check.
- Worked to expand locations where law abiding citizens with concealed carry permits can carry, including state parks.
While Cuccinelli has failed abysmally in his litigation efforts against common sense federal legislation, if elected as governor, he would have the power to appoint roughly 3,600 individuals to positions that range from the State Board of Education, Board of Health, transportation districts and the Virginia Port Authority to cabinet positions. Packed with extremists, these appointments could cause severe damage to Virginia and its citizens.
To put Cuccinelli's threat in perspective, recent events in Richmond show the consequences of the anti-gay agenda favored and supported by Cuccinelli.
On November 19, 2012, James Finley, the coach of Virginia Commonwealth University's women's volleyball team (which just placed third in the A10 championship) was fired from his job. Findley, who is openly gay believes it was because of his sexual orientation - something deemed offense by VCU's new Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin who joined the VCU athletics department in July 2012.
Since McLaughlin's arrival at VCU, Pat Stauffer, a 30-year-veteran of VCU athletics and an open lesbian, was has similarly been demoted from her former position. As GayRVA reported, members of Findley's team believe that homophobia is behind Findley's sacking:
The language McLaughlin used also caused Boyd and her teammates some concern.
"He said 'We want someone to better represent the school,' and coach had never done anything to misrepresent the school - he's always very appropriate and nice to people, even when people are rude to him. I've never seen him in my 5 years misrepresent the school in any way."
Boyd agrees with Finley and does not think this issue comes from the college's higher-ups. "Our school is very diverse, I wouldn't really expect this... I don't think it's VCU, I think it's on the administrative side. I don't want to throw the AD under the bus, but we never had an issue until he got here."
Given the current state of Virginia law, Finley has limited legal options. Indeed, it is pretty sad when even state government agencies can discriminate against LGBT Virginians. When people call me and ask about moving to Virginia for promotions or job offers, I feel compelled to tell them "It's not a pretty picture."
With Cuccinelli in the Governor's mansion, it is a safe bet that such travesties would increase. As would efforts to diminish the rights of other Virginians deemed "other" or seen as "sinners" by Mr. Cuccinelli and the zealots at The Family Foundation. Thus, while we enjoy this season of joy and good will, we need to be prepared to battle the potential darkness to come in 2013 and beyond.
Author's Note: Portions of this post are from my December 2012 column in VEER Magazine for which I write a monthly LGBT issues related column.