Michael Hamar

Virginia's Bizarre "Tolerance" Ranking By the Daily Beast

Filed By Michael Hamar | January 20, 2011 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, Martin Luther King Jr., racial discrimination, religious based discrimination, tolerance

The Daily Beast has come up with a ranking of U.S. states in terms of alleged levels of tolerance. I'm not sure what mind altering drugs the reviewers were using WhiteAmerica-e.jpgat the time they ranked Virginia as #11 (higher than New York and Massachusetts), but they really need to rework their data in my view. They might also try actually talking to Virginians from different minority groups as well. In my view, the picture on the right better sums up the atmosphere in Virginia, because it's not just LGBT Virginians who face discrimination.

The House of Delegates is controlled by white Republicans, many of whom seem to cling to a mind-set where they still believe that every white man should be able to own a black man, or at least be able to force blacks to use segregated facilities. Muslims fare little better as The Family Foundation, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, strives to institute a Christianist theocracy in the state.

And, of course, gays are treated with with fewer legal protections and respect than farm animals and household pets. Indeed, we can be fired at will by both state and private employers for being gay (something I experienced personally), our relationships are afforded zero legal recognition, and gay bashing continues to be a favored sport on the part of GOP elected officials.

Indeed, my advice when asked what I think by LGBT individuals thinking of moving to Virginia: Don't move to this bigoted state.

Here's how the Daily Beast described its obviously flawed ranking project:

In the four-plus decades since Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, America has surely moved closer to a country where people are judged more by content of their character than the color of their skin--or their gender, religion or sexual orientation. In honor of today's national holiday, and mindful of the debate fostered by the massacre in Tucson nine days ago, The Daily Beast sought to examine which states are the most tolerant, devising a thorough point system that measures each state's residents based on their actions and opinions, as well the scope of state laws guaranteeing equal rights and protections, which reflects the broader political will.

These are the supposed results that boosted Virginia to a rank of number eleven out of the 20 most tolerant states:

Tolerance score: 66 out of 100
Hate crime score: 24 out of 40
Discrimination score: 35 out of 40
Gay rights score: 1 out of 10
Religious Tolerance Score: 6 out of 10
Hate crime incidents per 100,000 residents: 1.9 (20 out of 50 states)
Discrimination cases filed per 100,000 residents: 8.5 (2 out of 50 states)
Population in support of same-sex marriage: 42%
Population that believes many religions lead to eternal life: 69%

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I was shocked to see Virginia sitting at #11 as well! I went to undergrad in Lynchburg, VA and then grad school in Northern Virginia and I can tell you neither place was what I would call tolerant! Honestly, I had more acceptance as a Lesbian by co-workers in Lynchburg (hometown of Jerry Falwell) than I did in Northern VA. Virginia is definitely not a place that my wife and I will be moving back to or raising a family in! I really hope people can look at this list and notice the obvious flaws with how the data was worked.

I was also surprised that Virginia ranked so well. There was a major anti-gay campaign a few years ago that resulted in a constitutional amendment barring same sex marriage. Virginia has taken very aggressive measures that are anti-gay.
For example, a Virginia law, the Marriage Affirmation Act, intrudes on private businesses and states that health insurance may not be extended to unmarried partners . This was passed because too may high tech firms were offering gays the equivalent of spousal benefits, in order to attract qualified employees. Virginia hospitals have been legally exempted (until the provisions of Obamacare take effect) from honoring the wishes of same-sex partners. Private contractual arrangements between same sex couples to provided rights and protections between them are unenforceable under Virginia law. Virginia's gay bashing Governor has repealed the Executive Orders of his predecessor that banned employment discrimination against gays in State government, and the wingnut Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is busy trying to lead Virginia back to the Middle Ages with his attacks on academic freedom and gays. He hopes to become governor. Watch out.
Virginia is a bad place for gays to vacation because these attitudes in government set a bad tone in the private sector. Do not expect the vacation spot bed and breakfasts to be gay friendly.

My question is could it be that, as we see so often in the case of LGBT and transgender rights especially, that the populace, the average Joe and Jane, are actually far ahead of the politicians on these issues? It wouldn't impact all that much in the workplace as companies tend to know and exercise their full range of rights over hiring and workplace issues, but it could have a very big impact on the social and cultural level and thus you'd see some of the results you have from the Daily Beast rankings.

Rebecca - You may be right that the populace is far ahead of the politicians. Especially Republicans who feel compelled to kiss the ring if you will of haters like Victoria Cobb at The Family Foundation, Matt Staver at Liberty University and of course, Tidewater's resident loon, Pat Robertson.

In Tidewater, Robertson has huge negative perceptions, so I suspect that to some, whatever he's against is something they support.

I would like to disagree with Michael since my family has been in Virginia for almost 400 years, but the facts are the facts. That said, life is not bad uniformly for LGBT's in Virginia. The Charlottesville area, much of Richmond, Williamsburg, Harrisonburg and Roanoke cities generally are accepting even embracing places. The institutions of Higher Education have their own non-discrimination policies that DO include sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the Tidewater area (maybe the worst--produced our relatively uneducated governor), rural areas of the state--in the SW, SE, Northern Neck, and Shenandoah Valley are ultra-conservative. And ignorance abounds--even outside the General Assembly. I will have to agree that if Virginia is #11, the rest of the country is in BAD condition. We have far to go to achieve civility.

The Richmond City Government hires openly Gay and Lesbian employees and has since I was hired in 1971. They were even in positions of department head. I began transitioning on the job and dressed as I wanted to. Other people did the same. I was constantly amazed by the tolerance in my department. I thought the boom would fall, but it never did. Of course, Richmond may not reflect the entire state.

Indiana's rankings are also skewed. They get tons of points for a hate crimes law, but they don't have one. At all. Just the federal law. They ranked at #33 and got 18 out of 40 points for the hate crimes portion. They should have had 3.

They area on gay rights should be similar. I've seen the polling numbers on marriage for the state and know the laws rather well. They scored 2 out of 10 points there, but should have actually been -2 according to their system.

According to my calculation, that brings Indiana's score down to 20 instead of 44. That puts us in the #50 slot - dead last.

Dawn Storrud | January 21, 2011 10:18 AM

On Wednesday, Equality Virginia and I lobbied the members of the Commonwealth Assembly. We met in the Library of Virginia, which positively displayed a history of the succession process here. We contacted a large majority of the Senators and Delegates, handing out materials and asking for their support. You should contact the EV staff but my overall impression was that our legislators are still not ready to publicly affirm that discrimination has no place in Virginia. One staff member did not believe there were GLBT individuals living in his Delegate's district.

John Rutledge | January 21, 2011 10:25 AM

I am a native Virginian, sorry to say. I can see how perhaps some of the population is ahead of the politicians, but the theocratic politicians are who controls much of our fate. As my partner and I are aging, being 50&60, we are planning our escape. Virginia is an embarassment in regards to civil rights, much like some southern states in regards to racism. Our attorney general, Kookinelli, leads the pack.

Yeah most of the Virginians I know say it's not that great...