Connect with us

National

Va. LGBT lawmakers call for Northam’s resignation

Va. governor resists demands to step down following racist scandal

Published

on

Ralph Northam, gay news, Washington Blade

Embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is facing increasing calls to resign.

All five LGBT members of the Virginia General Assembly have joined their Democratic colleagues in calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) to resign following the disclosure on Feb. 1 of a racist photo on his personal page in the 1984 yearbook of the medical school he attended.

The statewide LGBT rights group Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, have also joined numerous other political and civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, in calling on Northam to resign.

On Monday night, members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBT political group, voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for Northam to resign “based on his demonstrated inability to lead Virginia in a manner consistent with the values of the Democratic Party.”

The LGBT lawmakers that joined colleagues calling for Northam to resign include Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria); and state House of Delegates members Mark Levine (D-Alexandria); Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County); Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), who became the nation’s first seated transgender member of a state legislature last year; and Dawn Adams (D-Richmond), who last year became the state’s first openly lesbian member of the legislature.

In yet another development that rocked the state’s capital in Richmond, the same conservative online publication that disclosed Northam’s yearbook photo reported on Sunday that a woman has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) of sexually assaulting her in 2004 in a hotel room in Boston during the Democratic National Convention.

Fairfax immediately denied the allegation, saying he and the woman had consensual sexual relations prior to his current marriage. He said the motive for bringing up the allegation after more than 14 years was an attempt to tarnish his reputation at a time when he might become governor.

If Northam resigns, Fairfax would be next in line to become governor, making him the state’s second black governor.

The allegation against Fairfax raised speculation about whether Fairfax might also be forced to resign in the #MeToo era in which women have come forward to report they were victims of sexual assault years after the alleged assaults took place.

In the event that Northam and Fairfax should resign, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) would be next in line for the governor’s position. LGBT activists in Virginia say that similar to Northam, both Fairfax and Herring have strong records of support for LGBT rights.

On the day his yearbook page was first disclosed last Friday by the ultra-conservative publication Big League Politics, Northam issued a statement apologizing for being in the photo. The photo showed a man in blackface and another person wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and masked hat that covered the person’s face. Northam didn’t say which photo he was in.

But the following day he stated at a nationally televised press conference that he and others who know him determined he was not in the inflammatory photo and someone who helped produce the yearbook for Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk 35 years ago mistakenly placed it on his page.

 In yet another development that baffled observers and prompted more calls for him to resign, Northam stated at the press conference that although he was not among the two people in the yearbook photo he did cover part of his face with black shoe polish in 1984 when he appeared in a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, impersonating singer Michael Jackson.

He said he was told years later by one of his black staff members that wearing blackface of any kind is considered offensive and a racist display.

He said he apologized for his action, saying he has changed in the 35 years since that time and his long career as a military and civilian doctor and public official, including his tenure as a state legislator and governor, demonstrate his strong support for civil rights for all, including blacks and the LGBT community.

The LGBT lawmakers and nearly all of their colleagues who have urged Northam to resign have yet to disclose their position on the sexual assault allegation against Fairfax.

When asked by the Washington Blade about the Fairfax situation, members of the Stein Club on Monday said they did not believe there was sufficient evidence associated with the allegation to take any action against Fairfax. The club members calling for Northam’s resignation said they would be pleased if Fairfax becomes governor.

Virginia LGBT rights advocate Nick Benton, editor and publisher of the Falls Church News-Press, is a longtime observer of Virginia politics. He told the Blade on Monday that Democratic Party leaders throughout the state view the revelations about the racist photo on Northam’s yearbook page as potentially damaging to their effort to help their party win control of the Virginia Legislature in the state’s November elections. Benton said Democratic leaders believe anything that could create a roadblock from that happening must be stopped at all costs and their means of stopping that is to pressure Northam to resign.

Yet Benton said he has found that many “rank and file” Democrats in Northern Virginia and other parts of the state are not as committed to Northam’s resignation as are the party leaders.

“I see more support for Northam than the media is showing,” he said. “I do not think Ralph Northam is a closet racist now,” Benton said, adding, “There is a lot of pain involved for those who are calling for his resignation because they know he is a good guy.”

Roem, the trans State Delegate, is among those who say Northam’s yearbook photo and his contradictory statements about whether he was in the photo, have made it impossible for him to regain his credibility as a leader of the state.

“I stand in solidarity with the @VaBlackCaucus in calling for the resignation of the governor of Virginia,” Roem said in a statement. “Who I know him to be today is not reflective of his racist past but the wound ripped open today by that racism has irreparably harmed our commonwealth and hurt our people,” she said.

In a three-page statement, gay Delegate Levine said while he too doesn’t believe Northam is a racist now he said his actions in the past and his statements during the past week have eroded his credibility.

“Having said he was in the photo on Friday, I was stunned when Governor Northam denied being in the photo on Saturday,” Levine said. “He admitted to having donned black face to play Michael Jackson in a dance contest but insisted that he had never worn blackface at any other time and had never worn a KKK robe either,” said Levine.

“But why then did he claim he did so only the day before?” Levine added. “What Northam said Saturday may well be true. But at this point, how can he possibly lead Virginia?”

Northam told the news conference on Saturday, Feb. 2, that he had never seen the controversial photo until it appeared in the press the day before because he had never purchased his medical school yearbook.

He said he initially issued the apology and acknowledgement that he was one of the two people in the photo in a rush to apologize and affirm that his values are not reflected by what he called a racist and “disgusting” photo that somehow landed on his yearbook page.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, Northam told the news conference after reflecting on the matter he determined he had no memory of ever having posed for the photo and absolutely believes he isn’t in the photo.

He said he had no immediate plans to resign but said he would reconsider that position if he determines he could no longer be effective as the state’s leader.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Pennsylvania

Teachers told to deadname or misgender students in Pennsylvania

U.S. Office of Civil Rights recognizes a school’s policy or practice of refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns violates Title IX

Published

on

Central Bucks West High School (Photo Credit: Central Bucks West High School/Twitter)

DOYLESTOWN, Pa.  Teachers at Central Bucks West High School in Bucks County say they were told by administrators to not use a student’s preferred name or pronoun if it does not match with the information in the school’s database. 

The new policy known as the “Gender Identification Procedure” introduced at a faculty meeting six days into the school year, prohibits staff and faculty from using a student’s chosen gender identity by administrators who also told them they have to follow parents’ or guardians’ wishes if they differ from a student’s.

Philadelphia’s local PBS and NPR outlet WHYY News reported that the new policy has received pushback from teachers including Becky Cartee-Haring, who has taught English at Central Bucks West for 16 years.

“A lot of us are distraught,” she told WHYY adding, “I physically felt sick in that meeting, listening to an administrator basically argue that we were going to protect ourselves by outing children … it’s heart wrenching … It’s just cruel.”

“What the children wanted was completely irrelevant,” said David Klein, who has been teaching social studies at Central Bucks West for 26 years.

Klein said he’s not going to follow the new procedure.

“There’s no way I’m hurting a kid. Hell no. I cannot be complicit in harming children,” Klein said, raising his voice. “And I said this in the meeting … this is the most at-risk marginalized group of students, they need our support more than anyone else. No! Kid says, ‘Call me Tony,’ I’m calling them Tony!”

Being forced to misgender or deadname a student is unacceptable to some of the teachers including Klein at Central Bucks West.

Klein said even if he faces a parent who does not want their child to be called a name that the child prefers, he will continue to prioritize the student.

“My job is to educate your kids, to prepare them for the future, to make them feel safe, period. That’s my calling. Pardon me,” Klein told WHYY choking up. “I’m calling you Tony because you need to feel safe in my classroom. How else are you going to learn? And if they want to fire me, that’s their business.”

Two Legal groups say this new policy may run the risk of putting the school district ‘legal hot water.’ The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s legal director Vic Walczak warned “That right does not exist, at least not in the way that these parents are trying to claim it does,” referring to the impetus behind the new policy by some parents who had pushed for it.

WHYY also reported that Kristina Moon, senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center, pointed out that federal courts have recognized “a student’s right to privacy in their sexual orientation and gender identity, including with respect to their family members.”

“Persistently and purposely misgendering students … can also be considered harassment that violates both federal anti-discrimination laws and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Walczak added. “It potentially is going to get the school district into legal hot water.”

Moon said the U.S. Office of Civil Rights has also recognized that a school’s policy or practice of refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns violates Title IX and equal protection rights.

Continue Reading

West Virginia

Students in West Virginia walk-out over classroom Pride flag ban

Speaker after speaker reinforced the fact that the Pride flag was symbolic of the LGBTQ+ community and not a pollical statement or gesture

Published

on

Students walk-out in Morgantown, WVA over Pride flag ban (Photo Credit: Trans Appalachian Organizer ash.in.wv/Twitter)

MORGANTOWN, WVa. – The Monongalia County Board of Education decision to uphold its August decision to ban all LGBTQ+ Pride flags from district classrooms on Tuesday prompted walkouts by students with some faculty members in protest Wednesday.

The board decision also drew sharp criticism from more than half of Morgantown’s City Council members. Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble told the Morgantown News that she’s very disappointed with the decision to “make accepting children, making children feel welcome and accepted, as our city says we want to be, that should not be a political decision.”

Especially, Trumble continued, when LGTBQ+ youth are at higher risk of depression and suicidal tendencies.

Mayor Jenny Selin weighed in saying that the Pride flags classrooms signal an area that is a safe space for those who identify with what the flag symbolizes.

“As such it can make a student at a highly volatile time in their life know where they might find an ear, or a friend or someone to talk to in that particular classroom,” Selin said.

In that light, it doesn’t seem to be political and Selin said she thinks it’s important to be able to find those safe spaces.

Third Ward representative Ixya Vega addressed the widely shared idea by conservatives and the far-right that display of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag was political.

“Supporting a child is not a political movement,” Vega said. “It is simply supporting a child, which is the job of the school systems. I’m so sorry to the students who have been made to feel less than and this does not align with our city’s values.”

West Virginia University has its main campus in Morgantown and the student-run campus newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, reported that in yesterday’s board meeting, Dozens of people, including parents, teachers and students, spoke out with a majority expressed concern with the ban on Pride flags.

Morgantown Pride president Ash Orr in an interview with The Daily Athenaeum noted; “We are just here to kind of amplify them right now, as well as speak on their behalf because some of them do not feel safe coming forward because they fear retaliation,” Orr said.

“We are here to not only help them, but we also, as a board, want to make sure that future students, faculty and staff that go through these halls are able to feel safe and represented.”

In the board meeting, Orr referenced an email sent by a member of Mass Resistance, a national anti-LGBTQ+ hate group, to them and members of the Board of Education. They added that the email was shared with students, teachers and parents in Monongalia County.

The email outlined religious beliefs and online references against the LGBTQ community in general, encouraging the BOE’s decision to ban the flag, according to Orr.

Orr said the email is an example of the platform that is given to “hate speech” and “hate crimes” by making it acceptable to say that the pride flag, a symbol for the community, is political.

“It’s the kids, the faculty and the staff who are inundated with this harassment and hatred every day in an environment where they’re supposed to be feeling safe,” they said. “That’s what scares me.”

Speaker after speaker reinforced the fact that the Pride flag was symbolic of the LGBTQ+ community and not a pollical statement or gesture. However at the end of the meeting according to The Daily Athenaeum, schools superintendent Eddie Campbell reinforced the decision, supporting himself with statements from legal advisors. He said removing the pride flags from classrooms falls in line with the BOE policy that states “non-school related activities, including political activities, do contribute to a positive learning climate and may be disruptive, divisive and distracting.”

On Wednesday LGBTQ+ students, allies, and some faculty members walked out in protest:

Continue Reading

Virginia

HS Students in Virginia stage massive walk-outs over Trans policy

The student-led Virginia-based Pride Liberation Project organizing mass walkouts and rallies in more than 90 schools across the state

Published

on

Youth activists in schools across Virginia walked out of class to rally against proposed changes to school policy for LGBTQ students. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY – Thousands of students in schools across Virginia participated in walkouts and rallies on Tuesday to oppose the revised “model policies” on transgender students released by the Virginia Department of Education.

VDOE policy revisions were released on Sept. 16 and differ substantially from the policies passed into law in 2020.

The original policies on the treatment of trans students were intended to protect LGBTQ students; but the revised “model policies” have been criticized by activists, educators and legislators for mandating students use school facilities for the sex they were assigned at birth and bars students from changing their names and pronouns without parental permission. Further, the policies direct teachers and staff not to conceal a student’s gender identity from parents, even when a student asks to keep that information private.

The student-led Virginia-based Pride Liberation Project responded to these policy changes by organizing mass walkouts and rallies in more than 90 schools from Alexandria to Williamsburg.

“These proposed guidelines are essentially taking that cornerstone and using it to undermine our rights. If these guidelines are implemented, it will be the single biggest loss for queer rights in Virginia in years,” Natasha Sanghvi, a student organizer with the Pride Liberation Project, said in a statement.

Openly gay Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in a statement said “these new model policies, which are in flagrant violation of Virginia law, will do serious harm to transgender students. They are not based in science or compassion and will lead to students being outed before they are ready, increased bullying and harassment of marginalized youth, and will require students to jump through legal hoops just to be referred to with their proper name.”

Ebbin joined several hundred students at West Potomac High School in Alexandria in a rally opposing the model policies proposed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

“The new policy drafts are only going to do more harm to trans students who are already at risk for being outed, harassed and harmed,” Jules Lombardi, a Fairfax County high school senior, told the Washington Blade. “These drafts will take schools, which are supposed to be safe environments for students, and make them spaces where students have to hide themselves for fear of their parents finding out about their identities.”

“This isn’t a matter of ‘parental rights,’ it’s a matter of human rights and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as cis students,” Lombardi added.

Students in more than 90 schools across Virginia participated in walkouts on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Andrea-Grace Mukuna, a senior at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, told the Blade that “gender affirmation matters. Something so easily given to cisgender people is a right that our trans and gender non conforming youth deserve. I am walking out because schools will no longer be a safe place for queer students to be in if these policies get passed.”

“Requirements for teachers to refer to students by their birth name and pronouns aligning with their sex, rather than trusting our students to know themselves and who they are best, reinforces the idea that we as students have no power, no control and no knowledge over anything in our lives. Gender queer youth exist, and no policy can change that,” Mukuna said.

Mukuna continued, “making an attempt at denying them their ability to be who they are is a malicious attack on vulnerable students that could cause deathly harm.”

“I walk out for my queer community — there is no erasing us,” Mukuna said.

Several hundred students walked out of McLean High School. The walkout was lead by members of the school’s GSA and organizers from the Pride Liberation Project including McLean High School senior Casey Calabia.

Calibia asked the crowd, “Do we want Gov. Youngkin to understand that this is not what Virginia looks like?”

The crowd roared, “yes!”

“Virginia stands for trans kids. Trans and queer people are a fact of humanity. We will be accepted one way or another and to see everybody here today is another step toward that change,” said Calibia through a bull horn.

Calibia told the Blade in a pre-walkout statement said “to call these policies in favor of respecting trans students’ rights and privacy is to call an apple an orange. The 2022 Transgender Model policies, even as a draft, have begun to actively hurt my community’s mental health.”

“Instead of focusing on academics and our future, we have to sit in class and wonder if we will be safe in school,” Calibia concluded. “To not only take away the 2021 policies, a cornerstone in LGBTQIA+ rights for Virginia, but to mock them with these replacements, is a devastating blow to myself, trans students, queer students, and the whole of Virginia’s public school student body. How can we be safe, if we can be taken out of school-provided counseling, maliciously misgendered, and denied opportunities given to other students simply because of our gender? Accepting queer students in class does not indoctrinate or brainwash kids. It tells queer students like me that it is okay and safe to be ourselves in school.”

Students walk out of McLean High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to protest the Youngkin administration’s school policies
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The student protests in Virginia have made national news.

“This is a president who supports the LGBTQI+ community and has been supporting that community for some time now as a vice president, as senator, and certainly as president now,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in response to a question about the protests during her daily press briefing. “And he . . . always is proud to speak out against the mistreatment of that community … We believe and he believes transgender youth should be allowed to be able to go to school freely, to be able to express themselves freely, to be able to have the protections that they need to be who they are.”

“When it comes to this community, he is a partner, and he is a strong ally, as well as the vice president,” Jean-Pierre stated.

Walkouts and rallies were held at middle and high schools in Arlington, Bedford, Buchanan, Chesterfield, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Henrico, James City, Loudoun, Louisa, Montgomery, Powhatan, Prince George’s, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Warren and York Counties as well as in the cities of Chesapeake, Newport News, Portsmouth, Richmond, Williamsburg and Winchester.

“Every parent wants Virginia’s laws to ensure children’s safety, freedom, and to encourage a vibrant and engaging learning experience. But the Virginia Department of Education is rejecting those shared values by advancing policies that will target LGBTQ kids for harassment and mistreatment simply because of who they are,” said Ebbin.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Advertisement

Popular