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Roanoke Free Press
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

First African American General Assembly member responds to Cuccinelli’s comparison of birth control opposition to civil rights struggle

Richmond, VA — Civil Rights leader and former Virginia Delegate Dr. Ferguson Reid released the following statement today responding to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s repeated invocation of Dr. Martin Luther King and the struggle for civil rights to support his efforts to limit birth control access: 

“It is disappointing that Attorney General Cuccinelli would equate his opposition to birth control coverage with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the men and women who marched and fought so that all Americans could have equal rights. We can all disagree on policy matters from time to time, but I hope in the future that the Attorney General will resist the urge to invoke such monumental periods in our history simply to strengthen his arguments.” 

Background: 

Cuccinelli Called Contraception Coverage a “Civil Rights Issue” and Invoked Martin Luther King 

Yesterday, Cuccinelli invoked Dr. King and protested contraception coverage in the health care law. 

He said, “You know this is a civil rights issue and the civil right here is of course the right to worship, religious liberty, right to free expression, the federal government… I can’t think of a time in my lifetime when they have imposed on it so egregiously as with this HHS mandate.  And mind you this just wasn’t part of the law, this is just a regulation but whenever I talk about religious liberty, you know they turn it around. All they talk about, they don’t talk about denying religious liberty. They talk about contraception. And I’m not talking about contraception. Government doesn’t have a role in contraception. Government does have a role in protecting your civil rights especially today on MLK day. The man who really came up with the American non-violent protest theory of civil disobedience. It’s pretty egregious that they can’t get any higher than contraception when we’re talking about protecting people’s religious liberty.” [Cuccinelli on Jon Frederick Show, 1/21/13]

Cuccinelli Invoked “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” at Prison Fellowship Event in Protest of Contraception Coverage 

Last year, Cuccinelli appeared before the Chuck Colson Prison Fellowship and invoked Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in reference his own call for protest against contraception coverage in the health care law. 

The Virginian-Pilot reported, “Last year, he shared the anecdote about his chat with the bishop at an event for a prison ministry group and obliquely invoked Martin Luther King Jr. for emphasis, asking the crowd “Ever read a little item called Letter from Birmingham jail?” [Virginian-Pilot, 1/15/13 

Dr. Ferguson Reid was the first African American elected to the General Assembly in the twentieth century.

A medical doctor and community leader in the city of Richmond, Reid was one of the founders of the Crusade for Voters, organized in 1955 and one of the most formidable political organizations in the state. It lobbied for voter registration among African Americans, conducted get-out-the-vote drives, and enabled Reid to win a seat in the House of Delegates from the city of Richmond in 1967 on his second try. Reid served three terms in the assembly. Afterward he was a regional medical officer for the United States Department of State. Reid was the only African American in the General Assembly when he took office in 1968.

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