Sixth-grader Aiden Coleman worked on a bill during science camp last summer that would, if passed, make the Eastern garter snake the official snake of Virginia. At the time, Coleman had no idea he would run into resistance for his choice of snake by state Sen. Richard H. Black, R-Loudoun, who called the garter snake a “lowly and common” reptile and “ordinary in every respect,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Black, a Vietnam veteran, also said when the snake is “confronted with danger, it runs.” Black didn’t think the snake was worthy of being the state snake of Virginia, and offered up his own proposal to name the timber rattlesnake the state snake.
But Coleman refused to be bullied. He wasn’t going to let a summer’s worth of work be shed by some venomous snake. So he sent his bill to Del. Brenda L. Pogge, R-James City, where it made it through the state House of Delegates easily. Coleman then defended his bill in the Senate General Laws committee, telling the committee that the timber rattlesnake is already the state snake for West Virginia.
“Just how much like West Virginia do you want to be?” Coleman asked another state Senator, Tom Garrett, on the phone. Garrett told the Daily Press that he was “thoroughly defeated in a 5 minute phone debate with an 11-year-old from Williamsburg.”
Coleman won over that Republican senator and other Republicans in the process, and then the Democrats took up his bill in full support, especially when one Democratic senator was able to get Sen. Black to admit the rattlesnake is the official snake of the Tea Party, which uses the Gadsden flag (it has a rattlesnake with the slogan “Don’t Tread On Me”) as its official flag.
The bill easily passed 33-6 and has been sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was expected to sign it today.