By Garren Shipley -- firstname.lastname@example.org
A 1989 master's thesis is proof that Republican Bob McDonnell's views on social issues aren't in the mainstream, Democrats said Monday.
But the Republican gubernatorial nominee says his views on issues like women in the work force and government support for traditional families have greatly changed in 20 years.
McDonnell spent more than an hour on the phone with reporters on Monday, disavowing much of the paper he wrote to complete his studies at Regent University in Virginia Beach.
The thesis is a policy analysis of how Republicans could support the traditional family going into the 1990s.
"In Bob McDonnell's preferred Virginia, women would be stigmatized for choosing to work outside the home, access to contraception would be all but banned and women would be denied equal pay for equal work," wrote Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, in an e-mail to reporters.
A spokesman for Democrat Creigh Deeds' campaign told reporters that the thesis has served as McDonnell's "vision for the role of government, his vision for a social agenda that should dominate governance."
Raising a family and 20 years of life experience has a way of changing people's views, McDonnell said.
"Most of [the thesis] was written in 1988, when I was doing an internship for the House Republican Policy Committee," he said. "I was influenced by a large measure by the debate of the time."
The goal of the paper was to analyze how government policy at the time was impacting traditional families and to propose ways to strengthen them.
"One of the things that got me to work on this as the thesis topic was that I believed that the family was the bedrock of society," he said.
McDonnell did not back away from that core tenant. But "there are many things in [the thesis] that I don't subscribe to at all today," he said.
Supporting families cannot include preferring one form of living arrangement over another, for either same or opposite-sex couples.
"I don't think the government has any business in cohabitation or any other living arrangements whatsoever," he said. "Government should not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, sex or sexual orientation."
His views on women in the work force also have changed dramatically.
"I'm much older, I've raised five kids, I've raised a number of teenagers. During that time since then my wife has worked," he said. "All those experiences have very much affected the way I look at the world."
A number of his top lieutenants in the attorney general's office were women, and his adult daughters are now in the work force.
"I have pushed them and encouraged them to get master's degrees," he said. "I wanted them to excel and to get a good job and be self-sufficient."
He also flatly denied charges that he would make access to birth control more difficult.
On the touchy subject of abortion, McDonnell borrowed a move from Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, promising that "I will enforce the law regardless of my personal opinion," he said.
McDonnell, a practicing Catholic, strongly opposes abortion.
"As a governor, just like as attorney general, you must follow the law," he said, "whatever the laws are that are handed down by Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court."
Kaine successfully deflected criticism of his opposition to the death penalty by promising to carry out executions despite his misgivings -- a promise he has fulfilled.
Election Day is Nov. 3.