Mayor Jones’ Stance on Same-Sex Marriage Plagues Democratic Party Chair Bid
Unconfirmed sources have told the Times-Dispatch Governor Terry McAuliffe has asked Mayor Dwight Jones to be the Virginia Democratic Party’s Chairman, and it’s raising some questions not only among pro-LGBTQ groups in the state, but also among local Democratic party chairs.
The current state party chair, Chamiele Herring, will resign at month’s end as she begins her pursuit of a Northern Virginia House of Delegates seat, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The quibble about Jones’ nomination starts with his religious background. He’s a part-time preacher and has been bullish about marriage equality ever since he’s been in office. In 2012, after President Obama came out in support of marriage equality, Mayor Jones released a statement saying it was a point he found contentious.
“This is one issue that President Obama and I disagree on. Despite this disagreement however, I applaud the efforts and work of President Obama and his administration and I will do whatever I can to ensure he is re-elected.”
Jones has shown support for the LGBTQ community in other ways – he’s attended Equality Virginia’s Equality Dinner events, supported zero-tolerance non-discrimination orders in city employment, and penned a proclamation supporting Richmond’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.
But he has not changed his stance on same-sex marriage publicly since the 2012 release.
It’s only been a few days since rumors of Jones’ nomination surfaced, and the pressure to serve and uphold values key to the modern Democratic party are already coming down on him..
Senator Adam Ebbin, Virginia’s only openly gay senator, said in a statement he could not support Jones’ nomination as well, showing blowback from the higher levels of the party. “Given that all five of the top state democrats support marriage equality, Mayor Jones is out of step with the direction our party is going.” “As a fighter for equality for the last 25 years, I cannot support an appointee who does not support marriage equality for the LGBT community.”
At the local level, support for Jone’s is also thin. Gordon Silver, the party chair of Hanover, made no bones about Jones’s stance on the issue.
“I definitely believe the whole issue of same-sex marriage is extremely important to all Democrats…and well if someone doesn’t feel strongly about it that’s fine — we don’t exclude anybody,” said Silver. “But you know, for someone who is actually the Chairman of the party, should (they) not be in favor of same-sex marriage is not something I think is too cool.”
Over in southwest of Richmond, the sentiment is the same. Elizabeth Hardin, the party chair in Chesterfield County said in an email, “Equality under the law and non-discrimination are fundamental tenets of the Democratic Party.”
“LGBT rights are human rights and the next Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia must be a leader who will advocate tirelessly and unequivocally for all of us. Virginia Democrats deserve no less,” she added.
Activist groups have also expressed their disapproval of the mayor’s possible future with the state’s Democratic Party.
The LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia condemned McAuliffe’s nomination of Jones in a letter sent out over the weekend.
“LGBT Democrats of Virginia is extremely disappointed with the consideration of Mayor Jones for Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia. We oppose his nomination and call on Virginia Democrats to seek pro-equality nominees at all levels of the Party and public office,” said the organization in the letter.
To remedy the situation, some activists have appealed to Jones’ spiritual side. People of Faith for Equality in Virginia President Robin Gorsline urged Jones to sign the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry statement, per WTVR. Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is a petition on which mayors nationwide can express their support for marriage equality. 10 Virginia mayors have already signed on, but Mayor Jones’ name is absent from the list.
While those within the Virginia Democratic Party have been quick to speak out, elected officials have been quiet thus far on all of this. Jones could be named Chairman as early as March 15th.
Top photo via Facebook
I’m a spring intern at RVA Mag and GayRVA. I recently got my degree in journalism from Virginia Tech, where I also wrote for the Collegiate Times newspaper. I spent the first half of my life as an impatient New Yorker, but I grew up here in Richmond, buying skateboards from Dominion, seeing shows at Alley Katz, and watching VCU Rams basketball games. I like everything bagels, wasting my money on clothes I don’t need, moombahton music, and cycling. I probably fell down putting on my pants this morning.
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