Robert F. McDonnell, Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia in the 2010 Election is steadil chipping away at his previously commanding lead as more and more information about the ugly side of religious conservatism comes out…
Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Virginia voters finds McDonnell leading Deeds 51% to 42% on September 2nd. This was just after news of McDonnell’s thesis at Regent University leaked out where he blamed the cultural meltdown of America morality on working women and homosexuals. As such, it probably has not had any impact on the numbers…
In January 2003, then-Del. Robert F. McDonnell helped gavel in one of the most extraordinary judicial reappointment hearings in Virginia history: a seven-hour, trial-like affair that led to questions about whether the future Republican gubernatorial candidate thought gays were fit to serve on the bench.
As chairman of the House Courts of Justice Committee, McDonnell sat at the head of the proceedings, with his Senate counterpart next to him and committee members on both sides. Facing them was Verbena M. Askew of Newport News, the state’s first black female Circuit Court judge, whose reappointment was in jeopardy because of allegations that she had sexually harassed a female colleague.
Amid accusations of racism and homophobia, state lawmakers grilled Askew and several witnesses for hours, focusing in large part on her failure to disclose the harassment case. Some members also raised questions about her actions from the bench. A majority, including McDonnell, voted against her reappointment.
In comments before the hearing, McDonnell indicated that Askew’s sexual conduct was relevant, telling one newspaper that “certain homosexual conduct” could disqualify a person from being a judge because it violates the state’s crimes against nature law. The words were widely published at the time, and his remarks contributed to a lasting view that sexual orientation was at least one reason for Askew’s ouster.
McDonnell said in an interview last week that the episode has nothing to do with his campaign for governor.
What is interesting is Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature Law prohibits not only homosexual activity, but certain types of heterosexual activity – including oral sex. Sensing a “gotcha” moment – the Reporter talking to McDonnell moved with –
Terry Scanlon, the Daily Press reporter who interviewed McDonnell, and Ernie Gates, the newspaper’s editor, both said last week that McDonnell never complained about the quotation’s accuracy.
Scanlon, who now lives in Colorado and is no longer a reporter, also remembers asking McDonnell whether he had ever violated the crimes against nature statute himself — a fair question, he thought, because McDonnell had raised the legal point. The statute, among other things, prohibits oral or anal sexual contact, regardless of the sex of the participants. McDonnell’s response, Scanlon reported, was: “Not that I can recall.”
In the subsequent interview with the Virginian-Pilot, McDonnell dismissed his answer as a “flippant” response to a “shocking” and “unfair” question. In political circles, it was a widely disseminated remark, and it came to symbolize, some said, McDonnell’s role in the Askew affair.
“Bob was the only one that I remember who at the time described his position on the case in relation to her sexual orientation,” said Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who was then the state’s lieutenant governor and president of the Senate.
The secret lives of religious conservatives… Indeed.