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Virginia governor candidate: School boards should set policies on Trans kids

Asked should school boards be allowed to reject policies to protect trans kids- school boards “should be making their own decisions” he said

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Democrat Terry McAuliffe (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

GRUNDY, Va. – Democrat Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.

When moderator Susan Page asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”

This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills. 

HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)

Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.

“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.

Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”

But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.

“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”

McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.

Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.

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Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate opposes marriage equality

The Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group has endorsed Youngkin

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Glenn Youngkin (Blade file photo)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – Glenn Youngkin in an interview with the Associated Press has reiterated his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Youngkin—a Republican who is running against Democrat Terry McAuliffe to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam—said in an interview published on Friday that he feels “called to love everyone.” Youngkin then reiterated his opposition to marriage equality before he added it is “legally acceptable” in the state. “I, as governor, will support that,” Youngkin told the AP.

McAuliffe was Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018. Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Virginia a few months after McAuliffe took office.

McAuliffe in 2014 became the first governor of a Southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple who McAuliffe married recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

McAuliffe on Friday criticized Youngkin. “As governor, I worked my heart out to keep Virginia open and welcoming to all,” said McAuliffe in a tweet. “This type of bigotry and intolerance has no place in our commonwealth.”

The Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin, but Log Cabin Republicans are among the groups that have backed his campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named Youngkin’s former company, the Carlyle Group, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.

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Anti-LGBTQ hate group endorses Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate

Recent polling shows that in Virginia’s gubernatorial race between Youngkin and McAuliffe, both are nearly dead even

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Glenn Youngkin (Headshot via Twitter)

WASHINGTON – The Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ group listed as a hate and extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, endorsed Republican Glenn Youngkin in Virginia’s gubernatorial race Friday.

“This fall, Virginia voters are faced with a stark contrast between the two candidates vying for governor,” said Family Research Council Action President Tony Perkins in a press release that Youngkin’s campaign released. “As a former governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe has assembled a lengthy track record of extreme, far-left positions. McAuliffe has been endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam, who made comments in support of infanticide, and McAuliffe supported legislation allowing abortion at the moment a baby is born. When he was recently asked to name an abortion restriction he supports, McAuliffe said he supports any kind of abortion at any stage of a baby’s development.”

“Terry McAuliffe’s agenda is one of the greatest threats to religious freedom that Virginia has ever seen,” said Perkins. “McAuliffe’s positions would dramatically undermine religious freedom and could result in small business owners and faith-based organizations being punished for living out deeply-held religious beliefs. And when it comes to educational choice, McAuliffe supports extreme measures stripping parents of their right to protect their children. He recently stated during a public debate, ‘I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.’”

Perkins noted that Youngkin, a Republican, “on the other hand will empower parents to have an even greater say in their child’s education.”

“That’s why we’re urging Virginians to vote for Glenn Youngkin for governor,” said Perkins. “Glenn’s faith is a driving force in what he does and he understands the values that are important to Virginians. He will stand up to the extreme policies of the Left.”

Youngkin on Friday spoke at the Family Research Council’s Pray, Vote, Stand Summit 2021 that took place at a church in Leesburg. Youngkin’s campaign also announced the Virginia Society for Human Life PAC and Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance have endorsed his campaign.

“Terry McAuliffe doesn’t support a single restriction on abortion, has a track record of trampling on religious liberties, and has said that parents don’t have a say in their children’s education,” said Youngkin in his campaign’s website. “Virginians understand that McAuliffe’s positions are too extreme and too dangerous for their state.”

Youngkin earlier this year said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. The former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity company, has also expressed support for Tanner Cross, an elementary school gym teacher in Leesburg who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect trans and non-binary students.

The Human Rights Campaign in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. Youngkin’s campaign on Friday noted Log Cabin Republicans is among the other groups that have endorsed him.

McAuliffe, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee who was Virginia’s governor from 2014-2018, vetoed religious freedom bills and championed LGBTQ rights. McAuliffe last month during a debate with Youngkin sparked criticism among activists when he said local school boards “should be making their own decisions” about the implementation of the Department of Education’s guidelines for trans and non-binary students.

“Let’s keep Virginia open and welcoming to all,” tweeted McAuliffe on Friday.

The Blade has reached out to McAuliffe’s campaign for comment on Family Research Council Action’s Youngkin endorsement.

Recent polling shows that the race between Youngkin and McAuliffe is nearly dead even.

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Virginia LGBTQ+ HS students want LGBTQ+ books returned to libraries

Following strong objections to the books by parents FCPS officials announced they had removed the books from the school libraries

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Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools Bus (Photo Credit: Fairfax County Government)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va, – A total of 426 LGBTQ students and allies from more than 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter on Thursday to the county school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reject requests that two LGBTQ themed books be removed from the school libraries.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain graphic descriptions of sexual acts, including sexual acts between consenting juveniles.

Following strong objections to the books by parents at a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board, officials with Fairfax County Public Schools announced they had removed the books from the school libraries to reassess their suitability for high school students.

The books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications, and both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“We are a group of over 425 queer students and allies across the Fairfax County Public Schools who are part of the Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of students working to uplift the Queer community,” the student letter says.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter says.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” it says.

Each of the 426 students who joined the letter signed with their initials rather than their full names while also writing the name of the school they attend.

Aaryan Rawal, co-founder of the Pride Liberation Project, which initiated the student letter, told the Washington Blade the group decided to allow students to sign with their initials because many LGBTQ students are fearful of possible negative repercussions if they come out publicly at school or to their parents.

“We have students who are even afraid to sign these names with their initials because they worry about what’s going to happen if their teacher finds out who’s not supportive or what happens if a classmate finds out who’s not supportive,” Rawal said.

“What’s going to happen if my parents find out if they’re not supportive?” Rawal said, expressing the concern of students with whom he has spoken. “We have students who have experienced homelessness because they’ve been outed to their parents,” he said. “And so, it is very much a real threat. We’re not exaggerating that whatsoever.”

The student letter states that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy.” It names several of them, including Simone Elkeles’ “Rules of Attraction,” Stephen King’s “It,” Meg Cabot’s “Ready or Not,” and John Green’s “Looking for Alaska.”

“By holding books that describe LGBTQIA+ relationships to a different standard compared to these novels, Fairfax County Public Schools creates an inequitable, exclusionary, and heteronormative educational environment for queer students,” the letter states.

“As students, we are tired of being scrutinized and targeted for who we are,” says the letter. “We simply want to be treated equally in our schools, including in our libraries. Please reject attacks against LGBTQIA+ literature and allow ‘Gender Queer’ and ‘Lawn Boy’ to remain in our schools,” the letter concludes.

Julie Moult, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Public Schools, told the Blade in an Oct. 8 email that the review process for the two books by school officials, including two committees appointed by Supt. Scott Brabrand, would take up to 45 days to complete from the time it began shortly after the Sept. 23 school board meeting. 

Moult said it would be inappropriate for the superintendent to comment on the student letter until the outcome of the review process becomes known.

“The recommendation of the committees will be put forward to the assistant superintendent of instructional services who will make a final decision as to whether Fairfax County Public Schools continues to provide access to these books in our high school libraries,” school officials said in a statement released last month.

Rawal said students who helped write the letter they sent to the school board and the superintendent strongly dispute claims by several parents who described the two books in question as a form of pornography that’s unsuitable for high school students.

“I mean that’s just not accurate,” Rawal said. “We’ve read both books cover to cover, and I don’t see how there is a debate here. Mentioning sex does not make something pornography,” he said. “These books reference sex certainly but relegating the content of these books just to sex is a gross misrepresentation of what they’re really about.”

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