Anti-Cuccinelli Group Barred From ‘Defense of Marriage’ Summit
After being denied entry to an anti-gay-marriage summit headlined by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, members of the Richmond-based abortion rights group Cooch Watch staged a demonstration outside the event.
Cuccinelli was headlining the “Virginia Defense of Marriage” Summit at Reconciliation Community Church in Manassas on Friday evening. The meeting also featured such figures as Bishop Harry Jackson, a leading opponent of gay rights in Maryland.
Church security refused to allow Cooch Watch members or members of the press into the summit, saying the church was private property. The church prevented this reporter and a reporter for the Washington Blade from covering the event.
Upon being denied entry, Cooch Watch’s contingent picketed on the sidewalk in front of the church. Members of the group held signs and played recordings of their anti-Cuccinelli song parodies, such as “Won’t Go Back” and “Hands Off, Crazy.”
They remained there for about two hours before dispersing as night fell.
Shelley Abrams, the group’s co-founder, told the Washington Blade that the denial was “appalling.”
As Cuccinelli’s constituents, Abrams said, “We want to hear what he has to say about same-sex marriage. And we were not given that opportunity. There is fear among the ultra-right wing of being exposed, and they know that Cooch Watch is here to expose them.”
“We were at least expecting to be able to get in,” said Cooch Watch member Vicki Yeroian. “The fact that we’re not even able to go into a church kind of worries me, because churches are supposed to be opening and welcom[ing] as long as we’re not malicious-looking people, which we’re not.”
Cooch Watch member Liz Remick said Friday’s protest was somewhat new territory for the group. Most of the organization’s previous activism has centered on Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion rights.
Remick said Cuccinelli “is clearly the face of more than one kind of hate. I mean, he hates women, and he hates gay people … I don’t think there can be too much exposure on Ken Cuccinelli, because people don’t know who he is.”
This was not Cooch Watch’s first run-in with a venue hosting the attorney general.
Last week, Cooch Watch staged a sit-in at Poe’s Pub in Shockoe Bottom when the establishment hosted Cuccinelli. Members of the group were told they would be ejected if they “said one word,” according to Cooch Watch member Jordan Romeo. The group has since used its Facebook page to urge a boycott of the restaurant.
Cooch Watch was founded in July, in response to Cuccinelli’s refusal to certify State Board of Health regulations that would have allowed existing Virginia abortion providers to remain open without remodeling.
Cuccinelli’s spokesman has said that the attorney general was simply interpreting the law – not imposing his personal views against abortion.
Cuccinelli says his position regarding same-sex marriage also is rooted in law. He has joined attorneys general from 14 other states in filing an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The amicus brief states:
“The choice to promote traditional marriages is based on an understanding that civil marriage recognition arises from the need to encourage biological parents to remain together for the sake of their children. It protects the only procreative relationship that exists and makes it more likely that unintended children, among the weakest members of society, will be cared for.”
Zack Budryk, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, has been writing since age 10 working towards a career of advocacy-based investigative journalism.
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