We are dismayed by the news that an active and respected Virginia organization dedicated to the extension of full civil rights to all persons despite their sexual orientation chose last week to endorse a candidate aligned with a right-wing church that considers gays and lesbians “second class citizens,” at best. The Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club has been strongly supported by our owner for years.
But it appears the board of directors of the group chose partisanship over self-dignity and equal rights in its endorsement of Chap Petersen, running as a Democrat for the Virginia state assembly in Fairfax. Petersen is a member of the Truro Episcopal Church of Fairfax, which has been in the forefront of the national movement to cause a schism in the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.
The move last December by the Truro Church and others, including a majority of parishioners who voted at the Falls Church Episcopal, to defect from the Episcopal Church had as its impetus opposition to the elevation of an openly-gay clergyman to a bishop in 2003. The defecting churches have subsequently aligned, under the U.S. leadership of the Truro Church’s rector, with Anglican Bishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria. Akinola supports prison sentences for persons of the same sex caught holding hands in public, or for anyone regardless of sexual orientation meeting to discuss the issue of gay marriage.
Petersen, who calls himself a “moderate” Democrat, has made no public statements, to our knowledge, on these matters. He has done nothing to disassociate from any of this, and therefore has to be considered compliant with and in support of it until he does.
We are not impressed that Petersen allegedly opposed passage of the Marshall-Newsman Amendment last fall, the ballot referendum that has severely hindered the struggle for equal rights in Virginia. There were many things about that referendum that were flawed, providing Petersen with a convenient pretext for staying on the Democratic reservation without compromising his personal views on gays (he made no mention of the subject on his blog or web site).
Petersen warrants no support from any quarters favoring equal rights for gays until he answers to these matters to their satisfaction first. In fact, if he shares the view of the Truro Church on the subject, then he is exactly the kind of person that equal rights activists should be working to remove from, or keep out of public office.
It is disingenuous to say that Petersen is the “lesser of evils” in his election. A group like the Virginia Partisans has a responsibility to its constituents to stand on principle, first. Like us, it should be endorsing no one until these issues are fully fleshed out, and certainly not someone who fails to repudiate or clearly disassociate from a religious leader who wants all gays behind bars.