Virginia has a history of being known for shameful moments: last winter’s brouhaha over the governor’s appearing in blackface, the attorney general’s admission to similar activities as a young man, and the lieutenant governor’s being charged with sexual assault by two women, are all cases of a black eye for the Commonwealth, and especially for the Democratic administration. These are moments not to be proud of but ashamed.
Historically, too, Virginia has been the focus of national attention for reasons not praiseworthy. Remember the scandal and drawn-out trial of former governor Bob McDonnell, complete with a Rolex, an expensive sports car, clothing for the first lady, and home furnishings for the kids? And speaking of ridicule, who can forget the transvaginal probe controversy? Late-night comedians were eternally grateful.
In recent days, the record of Virginia’s legislators once again showed how small, ignorant, and intolerant they can be: State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) dog-whistled a gay colleague, Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), citing his sexual orientation during an NRA town hall meeting in Fredericksburg—a meeting closed to the public and the press.
Speaking to the closeted crowd of NRA members about the November elections, Reeves enumerated his opinions in a monologue about why voters shouldn’t give control of the legislature to Democrats.
Of Ebbin, Reeves said he wants to “radically change Virginia,” is from Northern Virginia, is “really liberal,” and is “one of the openly gay, uh, senators in our, uh, Senate.” Actually, Ebbin is the only openly gay state senator in Virginia.
The heated buzzwords—radical, Northern Virginia, really liberal, and openly gay–are intended only to create camaraderie among folks already in the cult of liberal gay bashing. In the wink-and-a-nod prism of Virginia Republicans, these terms become coded weapons to accompany the firearms of the NRA crowd.
Ebbin said, “[G]ays and lesbians are your neighbors and co-workers and often your family members. Though we may not be out, I hope that you will judge people on their merit and qualities rather than who they love.”
While Reeves declined to be interviewed, a campaign aide issued this statement: “Senator Ebbin is a friend and someone I respect deeply in the Senate. We bring different perspectives to issues and have worked on many bills together, and I certainly meant no disrespect to him or anyone in the LGBTQ community.” Really? Are these the kinds of words used to describe a friend, someone to whom you mean no disrespect? Perhaps so when talking to like-minded people behind closed doors.
In 2017, Reeves attacked one of his GOP primary opponents in the race for lieutenant governor, because she voted for a gay judge. The Senator’s consistency is a lesson in being carefully taught.
Reeves is the type of weak, name-calling politician about whom VoxFairfax has railed for over a year, and whose bigotry brings shame to the Commonwealth. Spotsylvania-area voters have a choice to make in November.
Reacting to Reeves’ comments, Ebbin said, “[G]ays and lesbians are your neighbors and co-workers and often your family members. Though we may not be out, I hope that you will judge people on their merit and qualities rather than who they love.” Ebbin is teaching civility.
Would that this would be obvious to more people.