Prince William’s outgoing board of county supervisors voted 5-3 Tuesday to name a new park after the late Michele McQuigg, a former supervisor, state delegate and clerk of court whose actions effectively delayed the legalization of gay marriage in Virginia.
McQuigg, a Republican, sparked controversy in 2014 when she used her capacity as Prince William County’s circuit court clerk to defend Virginia’s gay marriage ban after Attorney General Mark Herring (D) refused to do so.
McQuigg intervened in a lawsuit challenging the state’s 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by appealing a February 2014 court ruling that struck down the ban as unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear McQuigg’s appeal, a move that effectively legalized same-sex marriage in Virginia in October 2014.
McQuigg died of cancer in February 2017 at age 69.
Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan, proposed naming a new park in her district for McQuigg earlier this year. The idea stirred controversy among some Prince William residents and prompted county officials to restart the naming process with a new committee.
The new committee declined to include McQuigg’s name in a slate of options they circulated for public input earlier this fall, instead choosing the name “Old Bridge Trail Park,” which won the recommendation of the Prince William County Parks and Recreation Commission in October.
As such, “Old Bridge Trail Park,” was the name that advanced to the county board of supervisors for final approval Nov. 19. But Anderson, who lost her seat in the Nov. 5 election to Democrat Kenny Boddye, pushed back on the recommendation and requested the board return to her original idea: that the park be named for McQuigg.
Anderson took issue with the county’s naming process and said the decision to restart it was because “a majority of parks and recreation commission members felt that Michele’s stand for traditional marriage towards the end of her public service was not acceptable.”
Anderson also referenced the results of a Facebook survey undertaken by county staff during the naming process in which McQuigg received the most write-in votes. The Facebook survey was promoted and shared by members of the Prince William County Republican Committee.
“Despite the data, the parks’ commission still recommends an alternate name,” Anderson said. “The data speaks for itself.”
Seth Hendler-Voss, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, said the Facebook poll was a non-scientific survey, and that many of the write-in votes for McQuigg were duplicate votes, or votes from outside the county.
“It is not a statistically valid survey,” Hendler-Voss said at the meeting.
Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, joined Anderson in voting for the park to be named for McQuigg along with three other Republican supervisors who will not return to the board next year: Board Chairman Corey Stewart (At Large), Marty Nohe (Coles) and Maureen Caddigan (Potomac).
Stewart and Caddigan declined to seek re-election. Nohe lost his bid for board chairman in the May Republican primary. The county board will have a 5 to 3 Democratic majority in 2020.
Supervisors Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, Victor Angry, D-Neabsco, and Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, voted against the measure.
Candland said that while he didn’t agree with the accusations leveled against McQuigg, the issue had become too divisive for county residents.
“There’s too much controversy, there's too much angst within a significant population of Prince William County, and that’s why ultimately I can’t support it,” Candland said.
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