Amy Gardner at the Washington Post has an interesting piece looking into the background of the GOP's gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, Regent University graduate Robert F. McDonnell:
At age 34, two years before his first election and two decades before he would run for governor of Virginia, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master's thesis to the evangelical school he was attending in Virginia Beach in which he described working women and feminists as "detrimental" to the family. He said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." He described as "illogical" a 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples.
The 93-page document, which is publicly available at the Regent University library, culminates with a 15-point action plan that McDonnell said the Republican Party should follow to protect American families -- a vision that he started to put into action soon after he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
During his 14 years in the General Assembly, McDonnell pursued at least 10 of the policy goals he laid out in that research paper, including abortion restrictions, covenant marriage, school vouchers and tax policies to favor his view of the traditional family. In 2001, he voted against a resolution in support of ending wage discrimination between men and women.
McDonnell has been going through a mainstream image makeover, though, and so he quickly issued a classic non-denial denial (Republicans are masters of these things):
"Virginians will judge me on my 18-year record as a legislator and Attorney General and the specific plans I have laid out for our future -- not on a decades-old academic paper I wrote as a student during the Reagan era and haven't thought about in years."
McDonnell added: "Like everybody, my views on many issues have changed as I have gotten older." He said that his views on family policy were best represented by his 1995 welfare reform legislation and that he "worked to include child day care in the bill so women would have greater freedom to work." What he wrote in the thesis on women in the workplace, he said, "was simply an academic exercise and clearly does not reflect my views."
McDonnell also said that government should not discriminate based on sexual orientation or ban contraceptives and that "I am not advocating vouchers as there are legal questions regarding their constitutionality in Virginia."
One might take McDonnell's denials at face value, but he has something of a history of covering his tracks after realizing he's exposed himself:
One controversy that drew wide attention was an effort in the General Assembly in 2003 to end the judicial career of Verbena M. Askew, a Circuit Court judge from Newport News who had been accused of sexual harassment by a woman who worked for her. As chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee, McDonnell led the effort in the House. He said he was opposed to Askew's reappointment because she didn't disclose, as required, that she was a party to a legal proceeding.
McDonnell was widely quoted at the time as saying that homosexual activity raised questions about a person's qualifications to be a judge. Spokesman Tucker Martin said McDonnell was misquoted and does not consider homosexuality a disqualifying factor for judgeships or other jobs.
Even more to the point, McDonnell doesn't answer specifically whether or not he still holds certain of his views about key legal decisions he expresses in the thesis.
In particular, there's this:
However in 1985 with Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court embarked on [cq] dualistic path by attempting to create a view of liberty based on radical individualism, while facilitating statist control of select family issues. The Court postulated a new view of marriage by asserting that the “preservation of marital privacy” precludes state interference with the right to use contraceptives, even though the state had long been empowered to regulate the sexual relationships of marriage.
This is critical, because Griswold is a landmark case for two reasons: 1) It established the right to obtain contraceptives, and 2) the "right to privacy" precedent it established paved the way for Roe v. Wade.
It's clear that McDonnell opposes the right to abortion on the grounds that Griswold was wrongly decided. Does he also believe that states have the right to ban contraceptives? It's one thing to claim he doesn't believe contraceptives should be banned, it's another altogether to believe that states have the right to ban them.
Religious-right politicians like McDonnell prefer to operate under the radar if they can, imposing their long-term agenda incrementally, through stealth. It will be interesting to see if he's still able to do so after these revelations.