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Governor-elect picks anti-LGBTQ+ for Virginia Dept. of Education post

Youngkin has said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity

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Elizabeth Schultz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin on Thursday announced he has named an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board to his administration.

A press release that Youngkin released notes Elizabeth Schultz will be the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Schultz, who represented the Springfield District on the Fairfax County School Board, in 2015 voted against the inclusion of gender identity in the Fairfax County School District’s nondiscrimination policy.

The Traditional Values Coalition, an anti-LGBTQ organization, endorsed her re-election campaign that year. Schultz in 2019 lost re-election.

“Elizabeth Schultz is an education and public policy professional, a prior U.S. Department of Education official, and a former professional senior contracts and negotiation manager with 25+ years of operational and organizational experience serving large, complex public and private sector organizations,” said Youngkin in the press release. “Elizabeth’s work has served the U.S. Departments of Education, Treasury, and Justice; U.S. Customs Service; IRS; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Secret Service; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Fairfax County in the areas of asset management, information technology, global and K-12 education.”

Youngkin, a Republican, on Thursday also announced he has named Jillian Balow as the Department of Education’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Balow had been Wyoming’s State Superintendent for Public Education.

The Department of Education in 2020 issued guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against the policy. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin will take office on Saturday.

The Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Wednesday. Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, while Democrats maintain a 21-19 edge in the Virginia Senate.

State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., earlier this week told the Washington Blade she will continue to fight for trans students in Richmond.

“I will be a brick wall on the House floor, and I will fight my heart out defending trans kids,” said Roem.

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Virginia

Glenn Youngkin sworn in as 74th governor of Virginia

The newly sworn-in Republican Governor backed a Loudoun County teacher who opposed trans student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin being sworn into office (Blade screenshot via YouTube Live coverage)

RICHMOND – Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Saturday amid concerns that he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in the state.

“Today we gather not as individuals, not as Republicans and Democrats,” said Youngkin after his swearing in. “Today we gather as Virginians.”

Former Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are among those who attended the ceremony that took place at the State Capitol. Terry McAuliffe, who Youngkin defeated in the general election, did not attend because of a COVID-19 scare.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin on Thursday named Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, to his administration.

“We will remove politics from the classroom and focus on the essentials,” said Youngkin in his inaugural speech, without specifically mentioning LGBTQ students.

He added “parents should have a say in what is taught in schools.”

Youngkin has also expressed his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and would “support that” as governor.

Lieutenant Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares also took office on Saturday.

Winsome, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is the first woman and first female of color elected lieutenant governor. Miyares, a former House member whose mother was born in Cuba, is Virginia’s first Latino attorney general.

Youngkin in his inaugural speech noted “the people of Virginia just elected the most diverse leadership” in the state’s history. Youngkin’s first executive order ends “the use of” so-called “critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia schools) and other “divisive concepts” in Virginia’s public schools.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Wednesday.

Republicans control the House by a 52-48 margin. Democrats have a 21-19 edge in the Virginia Senate.

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Virginia school board names new chair who advocated for burning books

After approximately 7 minutes of heated discussion where members from both sides got noticeably frustrated, the board voted 4-3 to fire Baker

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Screenshot via CBS WUSA9 Washington D.C.

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – The Spotsylvania County School Board in Virginia voted Monday to name Kirk Twigg, who advocated for burning books he deemed “sexually explicit” in November, as its new chair. 

His win gives conservatives the majority on the board as Republicans across the country continue an effort to ban books dealing with LGBTQ issues and racism from schools. 

Spotsylvania County has been involved in the controversy from the beginning, voting last year to remove books containing “sexually explixit” materials – only to rescind the order a week later.  

Monday’s board meeting, Twigg’s first as chair, would prove to be disorganized and, at times, unruly. 

Twigg’s first order of business was to call an unscheduled, closed-door session, which may have violated Virginia’s open meeting requirements. According to Virginia Code, a closed meeting cannot be called without a public body approving a motion that states the subject matter and the purpose of the meeting, as well as an applicable exemption from open meeting requirements.    

After the board returned from the closed-door session, Twigg said well-regarded Superintendent Dr. Scott Baker would be fired without cause. Baker had already announced he would be resigning at the end of the school year in December. 

After Baker decided to resign, a longtime Spotsylvania resident penned a letter in the Free Lance-Star, calling him “the finest superintendent, by far.”

“Dr. Baker is trusted and respected by parents, students and employees of Spotsylvania Schools; and he never lost sight of his mission for good reason,” it read. “He did so despite the noise and disruption from those few board members dedicated to bringing political disruption and dissidence into our public educational system. Shame on the few.”

As Twigg made the announcement, another member of the board interrupted him, saying: “Um, Mr. Twigg, no he is not. You need to make a motion – there needs to be a motion and a vote.”

Board members continued to speak over each other as conservative members attempted a vote. But Board Member Nicole Cole told the chairman she had comments. 

“I believe that the board members who have lodged this termination owe our citizens and our students of Spotsylvania County a justification for firing Dr. Baker,” said Cole. “You have not stated any justification or ability to fill the position. How is this good for the students, the children of Spotsylvania? How does this make sense?”

In a rebuke of the chaotic meeting, she added that Twigg “couldn’t even properly chair a meeting.”

After approximately 7 minutes of heated discussion where members from both sides got noticeably frustrated, the board voted 4-3 to fire Baker. 

Twigg, Lisa Phelps, April Gillespie and Rabih Abuismail, who also advocated for burning books, voted in favor. 

The Free Lance-Star reported that Baker was escorted from the building before the board returned from the second closed-door meeting. 

An emergency meeting has been scheduled for Friday to name an interim superintendent.

“It’s just very sad to hear that a superintendent who has been fully engaged in this community for 10 years is just let go with no rhyme or reason,” said Board Member Dawn Shelley, while noting Baker’s accomplishments. 

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Virginia

Lawmakers & activists vow to defend LGBTQ+ gains in Virginia

“Given the new political climate in Virginia, we know that many are worried about the future of LGBTQ equality in our commonwealth”

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The Virginia Capitol (Blade photo by Michael Key)

RICHMOND – The Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Wednesday amid concerns that Republicans will try to curtail LGBTQ rights.

Republicans last November regained control of the Virginia House of Delegates, and now have a 52-48 majority. Democrats still maintain a 21-19 majority in the Virginia Senate.

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, Lieutenant Gov.-elect Winsome Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares take office on Saturday. All three defeated their Democratic challengers — Terry McAuliffe, former state Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) and outgoing Attorney General Mark Herring respectively — last November.

Democrats, who in 2019 regained control of the General Assembly for the first time since the 1990s, passed a series of LGBTQ rights bills that outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam signed. These include the Virginia Values Act, which added sexual orientation and gender identity to Virginia’s nondiscrimination law, and a ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors.

Northam in 2020 signed a law that repealed the state’s statutory ban on marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. Virginia that same year became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Virginia Department of Education in 2020 issued guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against the policy. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on Wednesday in an email to the Washington Blade noted Youngkin has nominated former Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James to become the next Secretary of the Commonwealth. Lamneck notes the Heritage Foundation “has a long history of spreading harmful, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric” and James herself has said the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights laws, is “anything but equality.”

“This is unacceptable,” said Lamneck.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., on Tuesday told the Blade during a telephone interview that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

“I would strongly encourage LGBTQ folks and our allies and champions to contact their state senators about SB 20, let them know that this is a thing and that they do need to oppose it,” said Roem. “This is a year where if there is a state legislator who introduces anti-LGBTQ legislation we should as a community and as a Democratic Party specifically should really make a statement and defeat that loudly and make a very, very clear statement that as long as we have at least divided government, we are not going back on what we have done to make Virginia one of the most LGBTQ-inclusive states in the country.”

Roem also reiterated her pledge to fight for trans youth in Richmond.

“I will be a brick wall on the House floor, and I will fight my heart out defending trans kids,” she said.

State Dels. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) and Dawn Adams (D-Richmond), who are openly gay and lesbian respectively, both won re-election. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) remains the only openly gay member of the Senate.

Ebbin on Wednesday told the Blade during a telephone interview that Youngkin since his election has not specifically indicated whether he will try to rescind the Department of Education guidelines.

“We have to be vigilant and be weary of executive actions and be ready to combat any,” added the Alexandria Democrat.

Lamneck echoed Ebbin and Roem.

“Given the new political climate in Virginia, we know that many are worried about the future of LGBTQ equality in our commonwealth,” said Lamneck.

They acknowledged the House is “less friendly,” but added the Senate “remains unchanged.”

“We will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years,” said Lamneck. “Bills have already been introduced that would weaken both the Virginia Values Act and the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for the treatment of transgender students. We can’t allow this to happen. We will continue to build bipartisan partnerships and mobilize advocates to change hearts and minds so that we can prevent any anti-LGBTQ bills from becoming law.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck (Photo courtesy of Vee Lamneck)

State Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford County), who, along with former state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), co-authored an amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, co-chairs Youngkin’s transition team.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006. Roem in 2017 defeated Marshall.

The General Assembly last year approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Ebbin last month introduced the resolution. He told the Blade that he remains “hopeful” it will pass, but “I’m trying not be over confident.”

A law that requires Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles to offer driver’s licenses with a “non-binary” gender marker took effect in 2020. Roem told the Blade she is considering a bill that would allow marriage certificates with non-binary gender markers.

Roem introduces bill to cap FOIA fees

Virginia legalized marijuana in 2020.

Ebbin said he plans to introduce bills that would further regulate marijuana sales in the state.

Roem has put forth measures that would reform Virginia’s court-appointed adult guardianship system, expand funding for transportation safety measures and cap fees that municipalities can charge journalists who file Freedom of Information Act requests. Roem has also introduced a bill that would expedite the process through which students can receive free meals at school.

“How about instead of singling out and stigmatizing kids … we feed them instead,” she said.

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