November 21, 2017 at 11:29 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. House of Delegates may end use of gender-specific lawmaker titles

Virginia state Del.-elect Danica Roem (D-Prince William County) celebrates her victory over state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County) on Nov. 7, 2017. The Virginia House of Delegates may end the tradition of using gender-specific titles to refer to lawmakers if Republicans retain control of the chamber. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) on Tuesday said he wants to stop the tradition of using gender-specific formal titles to refer to lawmakers if Republicans retain control of the state House of Delegates.

Cox spokesperson Parker Slaybaugh on Tuesday told the Washington Post that House members would be referred to as “delegate” as opposed to the “gentleman” or “gentlewoman” from jurisdiction in which they live.

The announcement comes two weeks after state Del.-elect Danica Roem (D-Prince William County) became the first openly transgender person elected to the General Assembly when she defeated state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), a vocal opponent of LGBT rights.

Marshall — who has represented the 13th District since 1992 — repeatedly attacked Roem’s gender identity and used male pronouns to identify Roem. The Post noted Roem referred to herself as “the gentlewoman” from Prince William County in one of her campaign ads.

Slaybaugh told the Post that Cox “believes the ‘gentlelady’ and ‘gentleman’ terminology is outdated, and that referring to everyone as ‘delegate’ is more timely and appropriate.” Social conservatives have welcomed the proposed change, but state Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) is among those who have criticized it.

“I know the intent behind this wasn’t charitable toward me and I’m grateful our hopefully future Speaker (David) Toscano has my back,” wrote Roem on her Twitter page. “That said, I hope the unintended consequence of this will be non-binary Virginians feeling emboldened to run for office and win.”

Roem will be sworn in on Jan. 10.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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