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Gov. McDonnell supports ending cohabitation ban

Tuesday - 1/29/2013, 1:37pm  ET

AP Political Writer

RICHMOND, Va. - It's time for Virginia to end an antiquated law that makes it a crime for unmarried couples to live together, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said in his monthly radio program Tuesday.

But he was noncommittal on whether Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli should step down as attorney general _ the step McDonnell took four years ago to begin his own campaign for governor.

McDonnell didn't endorse the concept of unwed households. As a graduate student at Pat Robertson's Regent University, McDonnell railed against "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators" in a 1989 thesis. But he said people should not be subject to criminal penalties for it.

Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, won unanimous support Monday from the Courts of Justice Committee for his bill to eliminate the 63-year-old crime of "lewd and lascivious cohabitation."

Asked whether Cuccinelli should step down as state government's top lawyer and chief law-enforcement officer to avoid conflicts of interest in his race for governor, McDonnell said it depends on the candidate.

Like every attorney general before him who had run for governor since 1993 _ Mary Sue Terry, Jim Gilmore, Mark L. Earley and Jerry W. Kilgore _ McDonnell stepped down early in the year before the gubernatorial election.

McDonnell also indicated support on his hourlong live show on Washington's WTOP radio for legislation banning smoking in cars when minors are present, though he called it "nanny government."

"I thought it was the right thing for my campaign and the right thing for the office at the time, but every attorney general's got to make their own decision," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said it's difficult but not impossible to do justice to both the office and a full-time campaign for governor.

"Look, the president of the United States just ran for re-election campaigning full time," he said.

McDonnell also refused to say whether he would sign or veto surprise legislation by Senate Republicans to redraw all 40 Senate districts two years after the state's decennial reapportionment.

The governor criticized the tactics the Senate's 20 Republicans used to muscle through an amendment that boosts the number of GOP districts to Senate passage on the Martin Luther King holiday when they caught one of the 20 Democrats _ civil rights lawyer Henry Marsh _ absent attending President Barack Obama's inauguration.

"I was surprised, and as I said that is not the way we do business," McDonnell said. But he said he won't reject the bill just because of the sketchy process used to advance it.

"I don't look at bills generally on process. I look at them on substance, on legality and constitutionality, and that is a decision I will have to make when and if I get the bill," he said.

Since it passed the Senate on a 20-19 party line vote that angered Democrats, it has languished in the House of Delegates facing an uncertain fate there. Democrats and some Republicans have said House Speaker Bill Howell should rule it is not germane to the original House bill that made minor technical corrections to House districts.

On Tuesday, the legislation _ House Bill 259 _ was delayed for two more days.

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