Which McDonnell is the Real McDonnell?

Statement of Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal

I am shocked, but not surprised, at the views of Attorney General Robert D. McDonnell, the Republican candidate for Virginia Governor, in his recently publicized graduate thesis of 1989. McDonnell’s legislative record shows that he has consistently taken anti-women’s rights stances for nearly two decades in state office. From pay equity to reproductive health, Robert McDonnell has proven he is against rights for women.

Today, McDonnell says he supports working women and even gay and lesbian individuals, but his record shows that he voted against them every time he could. Which McDonnell is the real McDonnell?

Despite his attempts to rebrand himself as a moderate by distancing himself from his inflammatory views against working women, feminists, single mothers, and gay men and lesbians, McDonnell’s 18-year public office record, especially as a state legislator, shows that he has pushed much of the religious right agenda he developed thoroughly in his thesis while in public office. For example, he described feminists and working women as “detrimental” to the family and feminism as among the “real enemies of the traditional family” in his thesis. In 2001, he voted against ending sex-based wage discrimination. He has also argued that the child-care tax exemption should be repealed.

McDonnell called the 1972 Supreme Court ruling in Eisenstadt v. Baird, which legalized contraception by unmarried couples as “illogical” in the thesis and in 2004, voted against allowing student health centers on college campuses to dispense emergency contraception. He voted repeatedly for abortion restrictions and demonstrated he is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest. In fact, McDonnell supported or sponsored anti-choice legislation continuously over the 14 years he served the Virginia House of Delegates.

It would be one thing if this thesis was a satire, but it was a policy directive to the Republican Party. McDonnell went on to enact major planks of the policy agenda developed and described in the thesis. It also revealed that he has a well-developed belief against separation of church and state. One of his defenses on his views regarding working women is that his wife and two daughters work. However, we have seen with other advocates of the religious right that personal lives often have no relationship to public policy positions. We must evaluate McDonnell’s views by his actions as a public official, which have furthered an anti-women’s rights record.