A Democratic Party activist with a history of anti-Catholic and other bigoted social media posts has resigned from Virginia Council of Women after her appointment prompted outcry from Catholics.
Gail Gordon Donegan, a Democratic activist and self-described “gadfly” from Alexandria, was appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to the Virginia Council on Women on August 16. The council serves as an advisory to the governor, awards scholarships, and develops programming.
On Monday, Bishops Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Barry Knestout of Richmond co-signed a letter to Northam calling Gordon Donegan’s statements “offensive to human dignity” and requesting that he rescind Gordon Donegan’s appointment.
On Tuesday, Virginia Catholics were encouraged to contact the governor to express their concerns.
In a statement released to the media Aug. 28, Gordon Donegan said she was unwilling to let her history of profane public mockery become a distraction from the work of the committee.
“Today I submitted my letter of resignation to the Governor and will no longer serve as a member of the Virginia Council of Women,” Donegan said. “I do not wish to distract from the work of the Council. I will have no further comment besides this statement.”
On Aug. 23, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published a review of her Twitter account, noting Gordon Donegan’s many anti-Catholic statements, as well as the frequent use of profanity, and jokes about sexual assault and pedophilia. Gordon Donegan’s Twitter account has since been locked and made private.
Northam initially defended the appointment, though his office insisted the governor did not “condone” the language in the tweets. Following outcry from numerous faith groups, including both Catholic dioceses in the state, his office later confirmed the resignation had been accepted.
A statement from the Diocese of Arlington, released Wednesday, called the resignation “a welcome development,” and said that Bishop Burbidge “thanks and commends” Virginia Catholics who registered their objections to the appointment.
The controversial content on Gordon Donegan’s social media accounts dates back to 2010, since that time she repeatedly tweeted anti-Catholic jokes, many of which made fun of the sexual abuse of children. In addition to the Catholic Church, she also issued profane tweets aimed at the Boy Scouts, Republican politicians, and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president.
While saying she accepted that some of her tweets “crossed the line,” in her resignation statement Donegan called the backlash to her remarks “just another chapter in the bullying that women activists face every day on social media.”
Gordon Donegan said she had been the “target” of a “small group” who had forced her resignation by “painting a false picture” of her.
“I will resign today — but I will be taking legal action in the near future to ensure this small group is never able to smear someone like this again.”