Republican governor as gay rights defender: a sign of the times?
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) of Virginia said Wednesday that gay state workers would be included under nondiscrimination laws – a dramatic U-turn to his previous position and that one that may offer a curt warning to Republicans to steer clear of the culture wars heading into the November election.
By making that move, the governor “is now projecting the image of reasonableness and inclusiveness,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “This is not going over with the hardcore right-wing elements in the party, but it is a necessity for governing and it tells you where our society has gone. McDonnell has recognized a reality.”
During Governor McDonnell’s 2009 campaign against Democrat Creigh Deeds, one topic of controversy was his 1989 graduate thesis paper, which outlined a vision of the family. The paper said, in part, that government policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals, or fornicators.”
McDonnell said during his campaign that his views had evolved and that he believed in nondiscrimination against gays. Those statements were tested Feb. 5, when McDonnell issued an executive order that, unlike those issued by two previous governors, did not include specific protections for state workers who are gay. His action drew protests that grew louder with each passing day.