By BOB LEWIS
AP Political Writer
RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia’s most outspoken legislative adversary of gay rights has called out the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond for flying a gay-rights flag outside its downtown tower.
In a memo dated Thursday to Jeffrey Lacker, Republican Del. Bob Marshall thunders “Take Down That Flag!” and calls the decision to fly it “a serious deficiency of judgment.”
“A flagpole in front of a federal building is not a commercial or political message board,” Marshall lectured Lacker. “What does flying the Homosexual Flag, or any other similar display, have to do with your central banking mission?”
Fed spokesman Jim Strader says the flag went up Wednesday at the request a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees group called Prism in observance of National Pride Month and will be flown through June.
“It represents the bank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, which are values we support,” Strader said.
Marshall, who is seeking re-election this year and considering a U.S. Senate bid next year, claimed in his letter that the behavior the rainbow flag “celebrates” actually harms the U.S. economy. He said it “shortens lives, adds significantly to illness, increases health costs, promotes venereal diseases, and worsens the population imbalance relating to the number of workers supporting the beneficiaries of America’s Social Security and Medicare programs.”
“That flag has no business flying next to the American flag,” he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Marshall reminded Lacker that state law prohibits sodomy in Virginia. The law is not enforced, however, because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws that restrict private, consensual sex among adults.
In 2006, Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Virginia Constitution outlawing same-sex marriage.
While the Federal Reserve System is not a federal agency, it was chartered by Congress in 1913 to oversee the nation’s banking monetary policy.
The socially conservative Family Foundation said on its Web site, “Although the Federal Reserve is a private entity, it is disappointing to see it participate in this celebration.”
James Parrish, executive director of the gay-rights advocacy and lobbying group Equality Virginia, shot back, deriding Marshall as “Virginia’s self-styled morality police.”
“The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond should receive accolades for its decision to recognize and celebrate its GLBT employees, customers and vendors during Pride month,” Parrish said in a media statement. “It’s a private business and should be able to make its own personnel and corporate policy decisions without Bob Marshall’s guidance or the Family Foundation’s approval.”