The Sodomy Problem

Lot & His Daughters by Lucas van Leyden

(VC Note: This piece was written on August 19th, 2013).

Back in 2003, the Supreme Court invalidated a number of state anti-sodomy laws (including Virginia’s) in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.  In this ruling, the Court declared sodomy to be a liberty offered by the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.  Personally, I find this logic to be faulty.  Given that the federal government has no authority under the Constitution to regulate, permit, or disallow any sexual activity, I strongly believe the Supreme Court was in error.

However, be it for better or worse, we now live in a post Lawrence v. Texas world.  Recently, Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli suggested re-criminalizing sodomy in the state.  Personally, as a social conservative, like Cuccinelli, I have an aversion to sodomy.  I don’t want to think about it, I don’t want to hear about it, and I certainly don’t want to see someone engaged in it.  As our biblical basis, I’m sure many of us remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where God destroys the two cities as a result of the actions of their residents (hence the word sodomy).  However, in a conversation with my pastor, she added that perhaps the greatest offense of Sodom was their total disregard of hospitality.  Either way, I have considerable concerns about making these kinds of activities illegal once more in Virginia.

Now, obviously there are a multitude of arguments to be made to ban not just sodomy, but all sorts of sexual activity from the public eye.  However, if Virginia were to forbid sodomy again, we come across the troubling question of enforcement.  Do police and lawmakers have a right to enter a person’s property to check for such behaviors?  When it comes to coercion, rape, or the violation of minors, there is a general agreement that, yes, the authorities have this right.  However, when in the area of consenting adults, the issue becomes more difficult.

Again, let me repeat that I am not in favor of sodomy.  However, does that opinion trump the ability of individuals to do what they wish behind closed doors and outside the public eye?  I should think not.  After all, if we remember, it wasn’t too long ago that sexual activity among people of differing races was frowned upon in this state.  In addition, we once gave the state the power to sterilize “undesirables”.  With the reintroduction of anti-sodomy laws, should these practices be dusted off as well?  Admittedly the question is absurd, but still there is a certain bit of truth and danger embedded within.  Are there fellow social conservatives who think when they hear the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that these cities would have been spared if only their government had passed laws to save the citizens from their own immorality?

We must remind ourselves that if we are willing to permit the government entry into our homes and sexual practices in order to make sodomy illegal again, we open ourselves up to all sorts of additional intrusions should the lawmakers or police feel so inclined.  If a person’s home is her castle, shouldn’t she be allowed to run it as she sees fit so long as she doesn’t deprive anyone of his or her life, liberty, or property?  If I don’t want the state in my bedroom, it would not be morally consistent for me to send it into yours.

I’d rather see Virginia as a beacon of liberty among the fifty states where each citizen is free to chart his own destiny, rather than a place where the government spies upon its citizens in some kind of theocratic police state.  Sure, many of us may have a moral revulsion to sodomy and thus, I believe, have a right to keep it out of our personal homes, businesses, and the public sphere, but does this right supercede the rights of my neighbor in the privacy of his house?  The answer, at least to any liberty-minded person, is obvious.

44 For Jackson

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Photo from Cole Trower

This evening, forty-four activists came to the Republican Headquarters in Harrisonburg to watch the live-streamed lieutenant governor debate between Republican E.W. Jackson and Democrat State Senator Ralph Northam.  Although most were from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, several came from nearby areas as well, at least two from as far away as Luray.

In general, the crowd seemed quite energized, clapping frequently when Jackson articulated their principles and questioning some of the claims made by Northam.  The local media also stopped by to interview several of the attendees.

Given the number of yard signs spread across the area (more than any other candidate) combined with the considerable numbers of volunteers who have lined up to help the Jackson campaign, tonight’s gathering of forty-four is yet another demonstration of the vast enthusiasm many conservative activists in the Shenandoah Valley share for the Republican LG nominee.

Shake-up in the Virginia RLC

Last night, the Board of Directors of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia voted to remove two of their members from their ranks, Vice Chairman Steven Latimer and At-Large member Joshua Huffman.  In separate photographs both Latimer and Huffman were shown wearing shirts for Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor.  Earlier in the year, the RLC-VA voted to endorse Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate.

Although I cannot fault the RLC too much for their decision, given that it is the “Republican” Liberty Caucus after all, I did fight against my expulsion from the group.  If you remember, Ron Paul himself ran as a Libertarian back in 1988 and spoke favorably about that party during his talk in Lexington, VA in January of this year.  Would they similarly condemn him?  However, given that one replacement for Stephen and me happened to be on the call where the vote was to take place, there was little doubt in my mind how it would go.  For the record, I had been a part of their board since July of 2012.

For those who have read my piece entitled “Joining Team Sarvis”, you will note that even though I do have a few policy disagreements with Ken Cuccinelli, my major complaints centered on the tactics of Cuccinelli’s campaign rather than the candidate.  In good conscience, I could not support their exceedingly negative campaign and their attempts to silence Sarvis, a legitimate candidate on the November ballot.  Some liberty-minded folks claim that the Cuccinelli negativity is simply in response to McAuliffe’s negativity, but I must reject that argument.  Two wrongs cannot be combined in any fashion to make a right.  What both the Cuccinelli and McAuliffe campaigns were doing was, quite frankly sickening, making both seem completely unelectable without any positive hope.  Given Cuccinelli’s constantly slipping polls numbers up to Labor Day, it seems that a majority of Virginia voters agree.  After speaking with Steven Latimer earlier today, his opinion is that “Ken Cuccinelli has not run a very libertarian campaign” and that “the campaign seems out of touch with the party grassroots and is resistant to hearing suggestions.”

As you may know, giving the flailing nature of the Cuccinelli campaign, they recently had a bit of a shake-up as well.  It was my great hope that they would jettison their previous negativity.  Today, I received an email from the Cuccinelli campaign entitled “Lies” and beginning with the line, “Headed into the first statewide televised debate, Terry McAuliffe has set a low bar for the depths of dishonesty he will stoop to,” while at the same time including not a single positive word about Ken Cuccinelli; it seems to me that they have learned nothing.  Should they lose in November, (and I unfortunately believe that they will) and then they wonder why they lost, they only need look in the mirror.

It is amazing to me that for someone who has been struggling to find work, a person who is trying to put a little food on his table and a little gas in his car, the RLC would chastise him for doing so.  Should he do what he can to promote the cause of liberty, even if that means working for a Libertarian candidate?  Or would they prefer if he suckled at the teat of the welfare state instead?

Given a choice between Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, there is no doubt in my mind that Cuccinelli would be a much better governor for the Commonwealth.  I have said as much before and have no qualms about doing so again here.  However, that statement wasn’t sufficient for the RLC-VA who insisted that I had to both renounce Sarvis and publicly endorse Cuccinelli.  To me, my endorsement is something exceedingly special, my highest stamp of approval.  As such, I have endorsed only a handful of candidates over my 18 years in politics, such as Ron Paul in 2008 & 2012, Karen Kwiatkowski in 2012, and Ken Cuccinelli in 2009.  One should never construe my employment as necessarily my endorsement, for I have not endorsed all of the candidates for whom I have worked.  In addition, each of my endorsements I have done in accordance with my own free will, without duress.  I cannot nor will not allow any group to force me to endorse anyone.  Even though I very much wished to retain my position with the RLC, I felt I could not honorably take this step and told them as much.  As a result, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, both Steven and I were removed from our positions.

Virginia needs a healthy dose of liberty interjected into her politics.  So too do the Republican and Democratic parties.  Given my more than a decade of involvement with the GOP, I saw the RLC as an important avenue to promote these principles and mold the Republicans into the party that their creed claims they are.  Say what you will about them, the Libertarian Party, partly through the Sarvis campaign, has been pushing the liberty envelope in the state.  Will this Libertarian effort hurt the GOP?  Of course it will.  But rather than shoving liberty-minded people away, both the RLC-VA and the Republican Party as a whole ought to redouble their efforts to welcome these activists into their camps.

The Sarvis campaign serves a multitude of important functions to promote liberty and expand political dialogue and if anyone thinks that I am helping them because I hate Ken Cuccinelli either politically or personally, or believes that I want to see him lose in November, then that person has missed the point entirely.

Despite this unfortunate event, I consider many of the board members of the RLC-VA as my friends and wish them well as they seek to reform the GOP.  I’m disappointed not to be counted among their ranks, but know full well that I too will do my best to continue to promote the cause of liberty in some fashion or another.

Liberty now and forever.

A Few Facts About Planned Parenthood

Today, my former employers, Students for Life of America, are promoting a video exposing many truths about Planned Parenthood.

In order to spread their message, they are encouraging their supporters across the nation to post the video to their Twitter account.  I did so several minutes ago, but for those of you who don’t subscribe to me on Twitter, which is admittedly most of you, I’d like to share SFLA’s video with you on this blog as well.  In case you are wondering, given that some of my first impressions regarding Twitter revolve around the adventures of Jeff Frederick and Ralph Northam in early 2009, I don’t think it is the best medium for spreading political information.

The promotion of liberty requires the protection of life, especially the most defenseless among us.

Obenshain’s First Ad

This morning, the Obenshain for Virginia Attorney General campaign released their first ad on YouTube.  As you will note, it focuses on the state senator’s family life and his record in the General Assembly.

Regarding the specific claims made in the video, the campaign also provided the following additional information:

Mark’s Record: 
 
Protecting Families from Abusive Spouses
 
In 2007, Mark Obenshain sponsored Senate Bill 1237, which instituted mandatory jail time for repeat violators of protective orders.
In 2008, he sponsored Senate Bill 540, which ensured swift entering and transfer of protective orders to the Virginia Criminal Information Network system.
Mandatory Life Sentences for Child Predators
 
In 2012, he sponsored Senate Bill 436, which imposed a mandatory life sentence to those who would rape young children.
Making Virginia a Better Place for Jobs
He believes that the key to making Virginia the top state in which to do business is low taxes, a rational regulatory environment, and a level playing field. He has consistently fought for low taxes and a reasonable regulatory burden his entire career. In 2005, he sponsored legislation to require an economic impact analysis on new regulations affecting small businesses. He has supported incentives to bring and retain good jobs in Virginia, including through a favorable tax policy for small business and major job creation efforts. He sponsored legislation, opposed by his opponent in this race, to remove the union preference from major public works projects, evening the playing field for companies in Right to Work Virginia.
Require state government to take impact on small business into account when passing new regulations: SB 1122 of 2005
Even Playing Field for Non-Union Businesses: SB 242 of 2012
Small Business Investment Grant Fund: SB 344 of 2012
Small Business Jobs Grant Fund: HB 943 of 2010
Major Business Facility Job Credit (Expansion): SB 472 of 2010 and SB 368 of 2012
Farm Wineries and Vineyards Tax Credit: HB 1837 of 2011
Virginia Coal Employment and Production Incentive Tax Credit (Extension): SB 1111 of 2011

Positive and upbeat, this ad stands as a refreshing contrast to much of the mudslinging that has dominated some of the other campaigns.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mark Obenshain will make an excellent attorney general.  I hope you will take the time to explore his record and, after doing so, you will join me in voting for Senator Obenshain on November 5th.

Dr. Roberts & The Local GOP

Today, the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County Republican Parties held their monthly gathering at the Woodgrill Buffet in Harrisonburg.  The featured speaker at this event was Dr. Robert Roberts, a professor of political science at James Madison University.  The topic of the day revolved around the upcoming 2013 statewide elections.

Dr. Roberts painted a not particularly rosy picture for Republicans, pointing out the recent shake-up in the Cuccinelli campaign coupled with declining poll numbers for the attorney general, especially among women voters, does not bode well for the candidate.  According to his historical data, public opinion typically shifts little between September and November and should this trend continue, the Cuccinelli camp is in serious trouble; Cuccinelli has not led a poll since mid-July.  Someone in the crowd argued that Cuccinelli was heavily behind late in his 2009 run for attorney general and managed to overcome that deficit.  However, the polls from that time suggest that speaker was in error, Cuccinelli seems to have led throughout that contest.  Dr. Roberts also pointed out that the Cuccinelli campaign’s attempts to smear McAuliffe and make him appear unelectable have failed.  Curiously, when he asked the Republican crowd what Cuccinelli’s first campaign issue was, no one in the group knew of his plan to cut the state income tax.

As for the lieutenant governor, Dr. Roberts predicted that the average Virginia voter will find E.W. Jackson too extreme, based primarily upon his opposition to gay rights, especially gay marriage, and the issue of abortion.

Moving to attorney general, Dr. Roberts offered some measure of hope to the Republicans, reminded them that Virginia has not elected a Democrat to that post since Mary Sue Terry in the late 80’s.  However, even that race he thought was far from over for either candidate.  Although certainly not as talked about, the latest PPP poll has that election within the margin of error.

Given his predictions of a general Republican defeat, Dr. Roberts seemed like a rather curious choice for speaker at this event.  Not surprisingly, his comments seemed to upset a goodly chunk of the audience.  However, I found it interesting that his opinions closely mirror my own from last week, which suggested a result similar to 2001 where the only Republican victory was in the attorney general’s race.

Will Dr. Roberts words come true?

Peace in Syria

Yesterday evening, a group of local residents gathered on the court house grounds in downtown Harrisonburg to pray for peace in Syria and to oppose military involvement in the region.  I received word about this event the night before and was interested to hear what the participants would say, as well as observing how many folks would show up.

Shortly before the scheduled start time at 7:00 PM, I briefly spoke to the organizer of the event.  After learning that I was a conservative activist, he asked me if I would like to say a few words about this matter.  Although I obviously didn’t have anything prepared, I felt honored by this request and accepted.  I know that many conservatives would have declined, especially given the event’s ties to the liberal group MoveOn, but I firmly believe it is important to discover and embrace common political ground whenever and wherever it exists.

I oppose U.S. military action in Syria for a multitude of reasons.  To name just a few: we would likely be aiding a group that is as brutal as the regime they seek to replace, there is no compelling threat against the security of the United States, and our strikes will inevitably kill scores of innocent civilians who have already suffered tremendously under a particularly horrible civil war.  Therefore, I cannot in good conscience ask our brave men and women in uniform to risk and potentially give up their lives in this conflict.

After the speeches, the event concluded with prayers, singing, and a walk around Court Square.

To follow are a few pictures from the event:

 

The 2001…I mean 2013 Election

This November, Virginia voters face three interesting statewide races.  On the Democratic side for governor, we find a well-connected, well-funded Democrat who has never held office (though did previously run) squaring off against the Republican attorney general, who previously served in the Virginia State Senate, and a Libertarian from northern Virginia who sought a seat in the state senate several years ago.  The fight for the GOP nod featured the lieutenant governor, favored by the establishment and more moderate wings of the party, against the conservatives, especially religious conservatives, who preferred the attorney general.  Although the attorney general emerged victorious, it seems that wound inflicted to the GOP as a result of this feud has not yet fully healed; some of the supporters of the lieutenant governor have not yet announced their public support for the attorney general and a few are openly backing his Democratic opponent.  For lieutenant governor, the Republican Party nominated an Ivy League graduate who holds some views that pundits and his running mates consider extreme.  And for attorney general, the Republican candidate is a lawyer who hails from the western portion of the state.

Although the above paragraph is an accurate description of the 2013 elections, did you know that each statement could also fit Virginia’s election from 2001?  As another twist, were you aware that only twice in Virginia history did all three statewide Republican office seekers win, in the elections immediately preceding these two, in 2009 and in 1997?  Quite a fair number of coincidences, don’t you think?  They say that elections run in cycles and, as I’m sure you know, they also say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

IMG_2162Currently, as was the case in 2001, the Virginia Republican Party is divided.  Although a college student in Williamsburg back in the early 2000’s, and thus somewhat less informed in the statewide scheme of things, I would argue that the party is more fractured today than it was then.  First, in the early stages, some Republicans worried that some of E.W. Jackson’s statements would drag down the ticket, and some offered him only conditional support.  Now, others are convinced that Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign is weakening the cause.  Many Bolling supporters are still upset.  As proof of this party rift, unlike previous years, I have seen no full ticket literature, yard signs, or bumper stickers.  Each campaign seems to be charting its own course independent of the others.  Now to be fair, from my observation it appears as if the Democrats are focusing solely on the race for governor, presumably hoping that McAuliffe’s coattails will carry both Northam and Herring to victory.  One only need to look to Monday’s parade in Buena Vista to see that the Democratic Party has placed most of their eggs in the McAuliffe basket.  And then there is the Libertarian Sarvis; admittedly under funded, but also the great-unknown factor, currently holding sway with an astounding 10% of voters, assuming the latest poll numbers are accurate.

If we look back to the 2001 election, we find a Democratic victory for governor and lieutenant governor while the Republicans win the attorney general’s race with a huge margin.  For the record, for governor the Democrat got 52%, the Republican 47%, and the Libertarian with .77%.  The LG race was pretty close, but still a Democratic victory 50% to 48% (with 1.5% for the Libertarian), and for AG, the Democrat got 40% to the Republican 60%.

Although at the start of this campaign season I originally predicted that both Cuccinelli and Obenshain would win (Obenshain with a larger margin than Cuccinelli), with two months out, if the election were held today I now believe that November’s result will likely closely follow 2001 (with Sarvis likely outstripping Bill Redpath’s percentage due to considerable recent upswings in his media coverage).  Nothing is set in stone quite yet nor do any of us possess perfect knowledge; for example, in the lieutenant governor contest, if Jackson’s supporters are as out in force throughout the state as they are in the Shenandoah Valley and the Democrats only focus on McAuliffe, a surprise upset is not out of the question.

So, the question of the day is, do you also believe that 2013 will mirror 2001?

Labor Day, Buena Vista, 2013

Yesterday, the city of Buena Vista held their 43rd annual Labor Day parade.  As in previous years, this event serves as the start of the countdown to Election Day.  However, unlike previous years, Monday’s parade was smaller than average in terms of both attendance and sign coverage.  Normally, one can find a thick blanket of yard signs from all of the candidates along Route 60 into the city.  By comparison, signs this year were restricted to the parade route itself.

All seven of the statewide candidates participated in the parade and the speeches that followed.  Besides Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe, Robert Sarvis, E. W. Jackson, Ralph Northam, Mark Herring, and Mark Obenshain, other elected officials who attended include: Lacey Putney, the longest serving member of the Virginia General Assembly and grand marshall of the event, Representative Bob Goodlatte, Delegate Ben Cline, and Delegate Dickie Bell.

Much like the overall tone of the governor’s race, there seemed to be more anti-Cuccinelli signs than either pro-Cuccinelli or McAuliffe signs.  In addition, at the start of the parade, a plane flew overhead flying a message critical of the attorney general.  As for the winner of this year’s sign wars, both the Obenshain and Jackson campaigns shined.  Sarvis also did well, outpacing both his Republican and Democratic opponents.  Cuccinelli finished fourth and McAuliffe in fifth.  Neither Northam nor Herring had signs of any appreciable quantity.