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virginia is for haters, redux

Last June, I posted an entry about the depressingly ultraconservative politics of Virginia, the state in which I was born and where I now live, with only a 7-8 year gap during and after college. I think it’s not hyperbole to suggest that Virginia, for whatever possible reason I cannot fathom, may be the most anti-gay state in the union, beating out even those of the deep south.

In the Washington Post today, for example, columnist Marc Fisher describes Virginia as “a state where gay marriage is a topic for a future century (on another planet), legislators trade openly gay slurs, and the state attorney general resists relaxing the anti-sodomy law even after the U.S. Supreme Court orders up a change.” Every year sees a steady stream of anti-gay bills introduced in the state legislature. This year our lawmakers already have passed two resolutions urging the federal government to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage; of course, the latter already is rather busy engaged in the really important issues facing America today: steroid use in professional baseball and the protection of fast food franchises.

The latest news from Virginia is that the state Senate voted yesterday, by a 28-10 margin, to broaden the state’s already existing ban on gay marriage by stripping same-sex couples of legal rights they might gain from unions in other states. As Queer Day notes, in reporting on a story in The Virginian Pilot, “In fact Virginia is poised to become among the first in the nation to deprive gay couples of the right to share health insurance, visit their partners in hospitals and even keep custody of their children.” Just in the last couple of weeks, the legislature here voted not to overturn a law prohibiting private employers—private employers—from being able to extend health insurance to their employees’ unmarried partners. Yes, in Virginia the social conservative animosity towards homosexuals trumps the true conservative principle of less government intrusion in the lives of private citizens and in the business decisions of corporations. In Virginia, the government tells private employers to whom they may and may not offer insurance; it is the only state in the country that has so restrictive a law.

Last month, a man in Virginia was sentenced to three years in prison after an undercover police officer met the man in an online chat room and then persuaded him to meet him in a public restroom, where the man then allegedly propositioned the police officer, for which he was arrested for “solicitation to commit a felony.” In Virginia, actual public fornication among heterosexuals, a misdemeanor, has a maximum 12-month sentence (and prostitution is just a misdemeanor in Virginia as well), yet a gay man will be jailed for three years for propositioning a police officer, a police officer, moreover, who initiated the encounter and was the one who suggested that they go to a public place! Unless an appellate court overturns the sentence, this gay man will spend three years in prison just for something he said.

It sickens me.

In June, I wrote that I didn’t want to give up the state of my birth, and to some degree of my self-identity, to the radical right. But more and more I’m reconsidering that position. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto are looking better and better every day.


I completely understand how you feel. It sometimes seems that the country has completely lost its mind as a whole. Unfathomable decisions are being made. And it’s not pretty.

I have already decided that should this insane constitutional amendment idea go through, I will have no desire to live my life as a second-class American citizen. It’s much better to be a first-class Canadian.

Thom, I understand the urge to relocate to some Gay-safe place. This feeling has also emerged in me with ever increasing persistence ever since John Gay walked into a local Gay bar here in Southwest Virginia (where I live) and gunned down six people several years ago. Virginia has never been a Gay friendly place to live. To live as an openly Gay person here literally puts life, liberty, job and housing at risk. The Virginia legislature’s latest exercise in bigotry is just one more reason to say ‘Good Riddance’ to the Old Dominion.

Richie Haven’s song ‘Freedom’ (from Woodstock) keeps playing repeatedly in my head. I wonder if other Gay people are feeling the need to find a new ‘Promised Land.’ And I wonder if that place exists or can be recreated again. San Francisco started to become that place for a time in the 1970’s before it filtered out nearly everybody except wealthy white men. The Castro never was a very diverse community. I do not know much about the other Communities you enumerated. Do you think we are seeing the beginning of a new era where Gays finally build a sustainable, livable community where we can live free?

Check out www.virginiaisforhaters.org


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