Virginia Republicans deal a blow to struggle for partner benefits

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, left, is leading a GOP effort to keep partner benefits from his state government's employees by discouraging Governor Bob McDonnell from supporting the effort.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, left, is leading a GOP effort to keep partner benefits from his state government's employees. He's discouraged Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell from supporting the effort. (Photo by Mark Wilson-Getty Images.)

It looks like political maneuvering has thwarted another equality attempt, this time in Virginia. The culprit? Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Cuccinelli, a Republican, advised newly elected Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell — also a Republican who won a symbolic red victory in November — to withdraw from consideration a state policy change that would have extended same-sex benefits to government employees. Not surprisingly, the proposed policy change developed in the final days of Democratic former Gov. Timothy Kaine’s time in office.

So far, McDonnell has not commented on the situation to the media, according to The Virginian-Pilot. But a spokesman indicated that McDonnell agrees with legal rationale outlined in the attorney general’s negative recommendation. Meanwhile, Kaine officials had argued the policy change wouldn’t increase state expenses, but a Jan. 12 state fiscal analysis concluded that “insufficient data” and other variables made cost calculations problematic, according to The Virginian-Pilot’s report.

Money concerns? Party-line concerns? Legitimate legal problems?

Take your pick. But I think this decision screams conservative politics. Kaine tried to squeeze this measure in during his last few days, and McDonnell’s team is already cozying up to conservative social groups that could help re-elect him down the line. (We can’t entirely glorify Kaine in this matter either, though. If he was truly an equality activist as opposed to a politician, he should have waged this battle sooner in his term — i.e., not December 2009.)

I can’t help but wonder if true progress will be achieved anytime soon — especially in Southern and semi-Southern states where a blue victory is rare and a lasting Democratic reign is even more rare. If LGBT rights are difficult to achieve in political seesaw states like Virginia (at least if we’re looking at Virginia politics in the last seven or eight years), then what hope do LGBT people have in the true Bible Belt?

— Jackie Valley, copy desk chief

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