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LGBT advocates look to future at book salon

Ahonen-Jover publishes new book, ‘The Gay Agenda’

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Civil rights activist Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D. (Washington Blade photo by Peter Rosenstein)

Democratic Party and LGBT rights advocates Paul Yandura and Donald Hitchcock hosted a discussion on achieving LGBT legal equality Thursday evening with civil rights activist Juan Ahonen-Jover, Ph.D., author of “The Gay Agenda 2012: All Out.” He talked about his book and why he wrote it and generated a lively discussion on the issues surrounding how the LGBT community moves forward from here.

Yandura and Hitchcock welcomed guests to their home, spoke about activism and introduced the author who spoke about the book and his activism. The book is about where he thinks the LGBT community needs to go in the future if we are to achieve the goals he sets out. He was speaking to a room full of advocates, who, while they may not be running any of our community’s major organizations, do have an extraordinary impact on the community. Among the 30 or so attending were Dana Beyer, Lisa Turner, Dan Choi, Dixon Osburn and Dan Furmansky.

The book is divided into four main areas. First is a discussion on “What is LGBT?” It tries to define what is family, what the Bible says and how we move to have people understand, accept and respect the community. The second section is titled, “What is the Gay Agenda?” In this section, he discusses what we are looking for. Is it special rights or rather a series of what he defines as “equality goals.” He talks about hate crimes, serving in the military, marriage equality, freedom of gender and protecting youth among other goals. The third section addresses “Different Paths.” It is a discussion on use of the courts, legislatures, considering whom to endorse as a candidate, how best to spend the community’s money and his thoughts on building coalitions. The final section is a discussion on what individuals can do called “Your Turn.” Then there are three appendixes listing major names in the LGBT community and in history. One that stands out for not being on these lists is Frank Kameny and I am sure there are many others but then no such list is ever complete. There is an appendix on the Dallas Principles identifying the authors by descriptions of what they were doing at the time and one is particularly humorous.

LGBT legal equality, LGBT activists, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic Party and LGBT rights advocates Paul Yandura and Donald Hitchcock hosted a discussion on achieving LGBT legal equality. (Washington Blade photo by Peter Rosenstein)

The discussion ranged from why one is supporting President Obama to how to make a decision on whom to support and the criteria one should use. Ahonen-Jover suggested that there are candidates he calls “heartbreakers” who talk about their support for the LGBT community but don’t quite get it and only support partial civil and human rights. He suggests that those individuals shouldn’t receive our financial support. He also suggests that we stop giving money to those who don’t need it to win their races even if they are totally supportive of us but say to them that we need our limited resources to support electing others who share their views. There was some discussion on whether the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund strayed too far from its mission in the effort to boast about a “winning percentage” with regard to the candidates they support. A number of people brought up the issue of whether to take money (they referred to it as dirty money) for marriage equality campaigns from those who support marriage equality but who then also support candidates who are pledged to see that it doesn’t happen.

Many in the room knew each other and are all looking to find some agreement on where to take the fight for LGBT rights. There seemed to be consensus in the room that if President Obama wins reelection there needs to be an all-out push for movement in the fight for civil and human rights for the LGBT community immediately starting with the lame duck Congress and if he loses that there still needs to be a strong push for his immediately signing the executive order barring discrimination in hiring practices by federal contractors.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

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., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “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.”

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Equality Virginia announces new executive director

Narissa Rahaman will succeed Vee Lamneck

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Narissa Rahaman (Photo courtesy of Equality Virginia)

Equality Virginia on Saturday announced Narissa Rahaman will be the organization’s new executive director.

Rahaman, who was previously the Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Regional Campaign Director, will succeed outgoing Executive Director Vee Lamneck on Feb. 2. Rahaman was born in Barbados and raised in Florida.

“Narissa also has 10+ years of experience in long-term strategic planning, multi-state organizing efforts, coalition management, and staff development, which make her an exceptional individual for the role of executive director,” said Equality Virginia in its announcement. “We are confident that under her leadership, the organization’s success and impact will continue to flourish as will our commitment to racial justice.”

Equality Virginia announced Rahaman will succeed Lamneck on the same day that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office amid concerns he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia.

Equality Virginia’s annual lobby day will take place virtually on Jan. 25. The organization’s annual Commonwealth Dinner is scheduled to take place in Richmond on March 26.

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Glenn Youngkin sworn in as Va. governor

Republican backed teacher who opposed trans student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at his swearing in in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 15, 2022 (YouTube screenshot)

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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