By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 24, 2010; LZ01
Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), a longtime opponent of gay rights, is coming under increased criticism for recent comments viewed as homophobic and embarrassing to the community.
At a Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, five of his board counterparts used personal time to chastise the Sterling supervisor for anti-gay comments. One member, Andrea McGimsey (D-Potomac), apologized that Delgaudio made some of the remarks from the board dais.
At a Jan. 6 meeting, supervisors voted to expand Loudoun's nondiscrimination policy to prohibit bias on the basis of sexual orientation in hiring by the county. Delgaudio fought the change in the meeting, saying he was especially offended by language in the measure that sought protection for transgendered people. In the debate, he called the board's attempt to protect transgendered people "freaky" and "bizarre." In a subsequent newsletter to supporters, Delgaudio wrote that "if a man dressed as a woman wants a job, you have to treat 'it' the same as a normal person."
Those comments drew a sharp rebuke from the Loudoun Times-Mirror on Jan. 13. In an editorial, the paper scolded the supervisor for "sustained and unrestrained demagoguery targeting human beings." The paper called for an apology and went on to say it cringed "with embarrassment for the image of Loudoun" that the supervisor was projecting.
At the board meeting last week, other supervisors joined the criticism.
James Burton (I-Blue Ridge) said Delgaudio had "conducted himself in a manner best described in my opinion as histrionic, and his choice of words were and should have been an embarrassment to this board and to the county."
Burton challenged Delgaudio's use of the word "it" to describe transgendered people. "Regardless of how one may feel about the policy in question, there's no excuse for referring to fellow human beings as 'it,' " he said. The use of the word "it," he said, was "demeaning, insulting and dehumanizing."
Delgaudio responded, reading a revised statement with the word "it" taken out. He continued: "With apologies to real-life Tootsies" and "to all their defenders who are calling me all sorts of names and, like Mr. Burton, are saying I should apologize."
He also defended his "strong words," saying they were hyperbole. Turning to Burton, he said: "Lady doth protest too much, Mr. Burton."
Others on the board said they were unimpressed by the apology.
"Eugene, I think I know when I hear an apology, and I don't believe I heard one this morning," said Supervisor Sarah R. "Sally" Kurtz (D-Catoctin).
"Name-calling starts small and then it just escalates, and I see no positive results from it," she said. Supervisor Kelly Burk (D-Leesburg) also condemned his comments as schoolhouse-level antics.
McGimsey said: "I think that the actions and words of Mr. Delgaudio prove why we needed to institute the policy that we did the other day. There's clearly some people who need those kinds of policies in place."
She said she believed his language was dangerous.
"I want to apologize to anyone who has listened to this, and I'm very sorry this has happened up here. I'm sorry," she said.
At the meeting, Delgaudio tussled with Scott K. York (I), the board chairman, as Delgaudio sought more time to defend himself. Several times, York told Delgaudio to quit interrupting and to "hush."
David Weintraub, president of the gay rights group Equality Loudoun, said Delgaudio's comments in the newsletter crossed the line.
"That said transgendered people are not human," he said. "There is a tendency for people around him to roll their eyes and say, 'There he goes.' There is a possibility that this sort of performance is contrived or deliberate. I think he is losing control of himself. It's hard to tell."
In an interview, Delgaudio said he was in full control of his actions. "I do everything I do on purpose," he said.
He said supervisors have been "pretty blunt" in disassociating themselves with him, which doesn't bother him. He linked his behavior at board meetings to lingering resentment over a December political controversy involving Christmas displays at the courthouse.
"Why am I so animated?" he said. "I am still angry, and I am still mad about them taking away the Nativity. They think they can get away with it. They are being held responsible by me."