Local Commentary

Editorial: The Supreme Court & Virginia Elections

The key civil rights decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) this week have put this November’s statewide elections in Virginia in very stark contrast that should carry through right to election day.

In short, no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general, or their major surrogates, deviated from their party’s lines that were very sharply drawn in reaction both to the SCOTUS rulings to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and to advance the cause of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The Democratic campaigns of Terry McAuliffe for governor, State Sen. Ralph Northam for lieutenant governor and Sen. Mark Herring for attorney general all assailed the SCOTUS vote against the core provision of the Voting Rights Act, and then hailed the court’s decision to torpedo the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and allow the ruling to stand legalizing gay marriage in California.

On the other hand, the Republican campaigns of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for governor, the Rev. E. W. Jackson for lieutenant governor and Sen. Mark Obenshain for attorney general showed no signs of deviation from the lead Cuccinelli and his right wing ideological sidekick Del. Bob Marshall have provided as critics of the Voting Rights Act and opponents of LGBT equality. (Marshall, in a typically acrid statement late yesterday, called the Supreme Court’s rulings on LGBT rights “an exercise in moral arrogance,” calling on Congress to withhold funding from federal courts as a result).

Jackson and Obenshain had no comments on the SCOTUS rulings on their official websites as of late yesterday, but Cuccinelli issued the following statement on the LGBT-related rulings:

“Ken Cuccinelli has always believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Going forward, he will continue to defend the will of the people of Virginia, an overwhelming majority of whom voted to protect the definition of traditional marriage under Virginia’s constitution.”

Cuccinelli provided an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on the LGBT cases last January which used, according to ABC News, a “slippery slope warning” in the brief, saying “it follows that any grouping of adults would have an equal claim to marriage” (such a polygamists).

By contrast, McAuliffe’s reaction to yesterday’s SCOTUS rulings was simple, “I applaud the Supreme Court decision today because everybody should be treated equally.”

On the SCOTUS weakening of the Voter Rights Act, Cuccinelli said he would uphold the law, as attorney general, but in comments to a conservative group recently, he called adherence to the law like “running to mommy,” adding by which, “you get my level of respect for it.”

This, again, was in sharp contrast to the cascade of outrage from all Democratic quarters in the state, and nationally, over what the divided 5-4 SCOTUS vote did to the Voting Rights Act.