The equal rights debate isn't over until someone brings up NAMBLA.The Commonwealth of Virginia (motto: Christianist Ignorance Rules) is getting visitors this week. The late Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church is making the schlep from Kansas to protest at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, among other hotbeds of stuff God despises. You can read all about it on the group's website, GodHatesFags, if you need another dose of un-American hatred to start your week (the site's very slow -- apparently God also hates bad code).Part of what's got the Phelpsies so upset about Virginia is, as usual, the gays, and specifically the people who think they'd ought to be full citizens. In his first 10 days in office, Virginia's new Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, made a point of revoking anti-discrimination protection for LGBT state workers. Democratic state legislators, led by Don McEachin of Richmond are pushing new legislation that would reinstate that protection.The measure passed the Senate by 23-17, with one Republican joining the yeas. McEachin's office says the bill's prospects look dim in the House. It has a committee hearing Tuesday, the same day the Phelpsies show up in McEachin's district.
McDonnell has said that he won't discriminate and that he believes the responsibility for ensuring equality belongs to the state legislature, and yet he hasn't made a point of pushing for McEachin's bill. A coalition in Maryland is trying to use Virginia's new anti-gay stance to keep Northrop Grummann from locating there and to pick Maryland instead. McDonnell's office says Virginia has been on an upswing because it has avoided "excessive government interference."If you look a little more closely at Virginia's Christianist revival, things get less clinical, in a hurry. This is not really about big government versus small government, regulation versus the free market. Not when politicians like State Delegate Bob Marshall call disabled kids God's punishment for abortions. Or when Senator Mark Obenshain stoops to a pedophilia argument in a debate over McEachin's civil rights bill, which you can see in the clip above. No, this is about whether America will remain a nation where church and state are separate. Virginia's just the latest place we're trying to figure that out.UPDATE: Maryland State Sen. Rich Madaleno, who wrote the letter to Northrop Grumman, says Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been pushing William and Mary to give up its anti-discrimination policy. The Washington Post says Cuccinelli and William and Mary will neither confirm nor deny the report.