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Follow the Rainbow Brick Road

by: Kenton Ngo

Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 03:12:44 PM EDT

2006: The Marshall-Newman amendment passes with 57% of the vote.

Creigh needs a home, Brian needs a brain, and Terry needs a heart. What's most important to you?

In February, I wrote that issue differences in a party primary were trivial, as they would more or less believe the same things--how and whether they would stand up and fight would provide more insight.

With the video feed from yesterday's Farm Team debate between the three Democrats running for Governor at William & Mary virtually unwatchable (surely you remember the old joke, "How many history majors does it take to screw in a streaming video feed on UStream?"), those of us that couldn't make the trip down were forced to rely on sporadic tweets and Monday morning papers.

While most writeups focused on campaign finance kerfuffles, that said more about the strength of each campaign's oppo research than the candidates themselves. What said more was their answers on gay marriage. Here was a typical summary of the issues debate:

Former Del. Brian J. Moran of Alexandria, state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County and Terry McAuliffe of McLean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, hit on a wide range of issues from the state's ban on gay marriage (they all oppose it) to teacher salaries (they all want to raise them). (RTD/Olympia Meola)

Which was largely true. Pledging to raise teacher salaries is standard boilerplate for prospective Democratic candidates, and these days, so is opposing a ban on gay marriage. But how the three of them came to say it spoke volumes about how they think. Of the three, only Brian Moran had the moxie to pledge to repeal it. Creigh Deeds continued to stumble as he continues to try to find his answer on the issue. And Terry? Terry McAuliffe, tail tucked between his legs, hid behind his mantra of "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Kenton Ngo :: Follow the Rainbow Brick Road
Luckily for us, Vivian Paige managed to get video of this question.

Deeds answered first. He smiled, nervously complaining the topic was no longer teacher salaries. Acknowledging that it was a major issue, he stuttered and stumbled, before finally declaring that it wasn't a state issue.

No matter what he says, neither side will completely trust him. After voting for the Marshall-Newman amendment as a State Senator, he flipped against it by Election Day 2006, and has been struggling to explain to both camps since why he switched.  On this issue, Creigh Deeds will always be homeless, no matter how sincere he is or tries to be.

Moran answered second. Unlike Deeds, his unwavering stance has made him right at home with GLBT advocates. His voice rose as he recalled how he "publicly condemned" Marshall-Newman, finally pledging as the crowd roared that he would repeal it.

I've supported Brian through this whole campaign because he's displayed political courage. However, this is a stance that will play poorly west of Virginia's urban cores. With stances like that coming from his heart, his political brain must know that he'll take some hits in November for it.

Lastly, Terry McAuliffe, who spent barely 10 seconds glazing over the issue before launching into a rant on Medicaid. He never had to push a button on the issue in the Virginia General Assembly, and as far as I can tell, didn't say a word about it as it passed in 2006. Calculating that equality for Virginia's GLBT voters was not important enough, he sidestepped the issue hoping it would never come up again.

McAuliffe might've shown that he listened to the focus groups that told him to dodge the issue. But what it says to me is that he doesn't have the heart or nerve to tackle it, and is skillfully using his lack of a record to dodge the issue.

Brian Moran's stance might be viewed as witless to those who fear the forces of bigotry in the general election. But to me, nothing is more important in a candidate than the courage to fight for what he believes in. Creigh Deeds has tried, but he will never undo the damage from his initial 2005 vote. And worst of all, Terry McAuliffe has showed that he'd rather avoid the fight entirely.

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Courage? Or recklessness?
I believe Marshall-Newman is wrong. I think it will be repealed in 5-10 years.

That's why I have a hard time agreeing to the notion that Brian Moran is displaying courage on this issue. Has he been consistently against Marshall-Newman? Yes. Will that hurt him in November with non-Democratic voters? Yup. Is he sticking to his principles even if it may cost him the governorship? Definitely.

But this is not an "all-or-nothing" issue. If Marshall-Newman is not repealed in 2010, it could be repealed in 2011 ... or 2012. Or 2013. Etc.

In other words, Moran is risking losing the election (saying "this is a stance that will play poorly west of Virginia's urban cores" is putting it very mildly) - over an issue where the demographics are clearly on our side.

Waldo said it best 3 years ago, and nothing has changed:

I don't dread this gay-marriage amendment working its way through the Virginia General Assembly. I don't particularly fear its effects. My fundamental opposition to just a nasty little constitutional amendment is only a small part of my opposition to it.

No, my real problem is that it's annoying.

We're just going to have to deal with getting rid of the damned thing in a few years.

I don't see Moran's commitment to principle as necessarily courageous. I respect it, sure. But in a situation where in 5-10 years we will almost certainly repeal the ban, why be impatient? Why make the primary about the issue, and give the Republicans a chance to come back?

Kaine, Webb, Warner and Obama have won Virginia in the last 4 years. None of them campaigned on a pledge to repeal Marshall-Newman.

I believe Moran is impatient and hopes to use this issue to win the primary, even if it costs him the election in November. When dealing with something as important as the governorship of my commonwealth, that behavior is reckless.

Some may say the courageous display recklessness, but I don't know any reckless governors. It takes discipline and patience to become governor of Virginia. We can't afford anything less.

A few things inaccurate about this post
First, the author writes:

Deeds answered first. He smiled, nervously complaining the topic was no longer teacher salaries.

That is grossly inaccurate. Creigh was clearly making a self-deprecating joke. I say that from the perspective of someone who was in the room at the time.

Second, all three candidates came out strongly in favor of either repealing the Amendment or the state simply getting out the marriage business, from a moral perspective.

Third, if the author thinks Cregih's voting record on this trumps his sincere statement that he has changed and grown as a person, what does he say about Brian Moran's 2003 vote in favor of  an unconsistutional restriction on a woman's right to choose? I mean, it wasn't even a close call.

Fourth, and again as someone who was in the room, Brian Moran had a great applause line, then Terry Mcauliffe took him to school when he explained why making the repeal of Marshall-Newmann, no matter how well-intentioned, was a fool's errand in a time of recession when folks are losing jobs and losing their homes.

Fifth, Terry McAuliffe did not ignore the unfairness of the issue. What I recall him saying was that he would deal with the inequity, for now, by enabling people to enter into contracts, rather than embark on the five or six year process of overtunring the Amendment.

Sixth, and the comment below is spot on, is the author really commending Brian Moran for adopting a stance designed to win him the nomination at the cost of the general election? Because that's what he seems to be saying.

First, I in no way tried to paint it as anything but a self-deprecating joke, and apologize that it came out that way. I do enjoy good self-deprecating humor.

My point is not that I don't believe Creigh sincerely opposes repealing Marshall-Newman, it is that it's hard to completely believe it. Not everyone will. It's a lot like John Kerry in 2004 coming out against the war--we believed it, kind of. It's good that he had the change of heart, but he won't recover completely from it.

In my book, standing up for a repeal counts for something. I always find it disingenuous, even though it's a common tactic, when a question is posed during a debate and the candidate turns around and answers the question he wants to hear.

[ Parent ]
Second, all three candidates came out strongly in favor of either repealing the Amendment or the state simply getting out the marriage business, from a moral perspective.

I was in the room, sitting on the front row. Even after reviewing the video countless times, I didn't get the impression you have written here.

I'll admit - as I have done on my own blog - that Creigh's answer was a reasonable one. Terry's was not. He essentially said he's not going to tackle it. Period. End of sentence.

As for Terry taking Brian to school - that's a little hard to do when both Brian & Creigh are legislators and Terry has never been elected to anything.  

[ Parent ]
Well, I was working off memory
Brian, obviously, vowed to repeal the MNA.

Creigh said he had come to the conclusion that the state ought to stay out of the marriage business entirely. You can accept that or not, or argue it is too little too late -- I've not given him a pass on his votes -- but I do believe he is sincere in his views as they stand today.

I'm about Creigh's age -- he has a few years on me chronologically, and a few decades maturity-wise -- but I can appreciate the changes that come with age and the fact that I view things in ways now that I could not have imagined when I was a pup of 21. It's not for nothing that they say youth is wasted on the young.

I can agree that Terry made took no moral position at all, although I thought his position, i.e., discrimination is wrong, was implicit in his answer.

As for the "taking to schook" remark, I plead guilty to some snark, but I thought Terry had a pretty good point.

That all said, I think his answer shows how he is a relative neophyte to Virginia politics, and doesn't fully appreciate the wounds this issue opens for many people, gay and straight, in the Commonwealth.

[ Parent ]
I think we agree
I actually commended Creigh personally for the growth he has demonstrated. I'm not happy that he didn't get it sooner, but after hearing him yesterday, I do believe that he is sincere.

And yes, Terry's answer showed his naivete. (I think he also said it wasn't discrimination.)

As for age - Terry's got 3 years on me, Creigh about the same, and Brian about 8 months. The question I asked Terry yesterday (and Brian before that): how is it that my partner & I have been together a lot longer (28 years) than these guys have been married?

I don't excuse people my age for not getting it, by the way. Older people, absolutely. But my age? Naw. When people my age don't get it, I know it is because of privilege: male privilege, white privilege and/or straight privilege. Privilege means you've never had to deal with the issue - either personally or through the people that you know. And there is no excuse for anyone my age to be racist, sexist or homophobic because their world should include people of different races, women and members of the LBGT community. It's a rather narrow world that does not.

[ Parent ]
Amen to that. n/t

[ Parent ]
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