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Warner comes out in support of marriage equality

Virginia senator calls marriage equality ‘the fair and right thing to do’

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Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) came out for marriage equality via a Facebook posting (photo public domain)

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) came out for marriage equality via a Facebook posting (photo public domain)

The senior senator from Virginia on Monday joined a chorus of prominent public figures who’ve come out in favor of marriage equality.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced his support for marriage rights for gay couples in a Facebook message.

“I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do,” Warner said. “Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone.”

Warner’s announcement is the latest in a string of announcements from public figures — including Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — indicating new support for marriage equality. The senator makes the announcement just before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Much like McCaskill, who came out for marriage equality on Sunday via a posting on Tumblr, Warner announced his new position with little fanfare via a Facebook posting. It’s also noteworthy because Virginia is a state that has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage known as the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which Virginia voters approved in 2006.

The last public statement from Warner’s office on marriage equality was in an article in The National Journal posted on March 1. In that article, Kevin Hall, a Warner spokesperson, said his boss was considering the issue, reportedly saying, “It’s fair to say his thinking on that is evolving.”

But Warner has previously weighed in on the need for married same-sex couples to receive the federal benefits of marriage. The Virginia senator was among the 212 congressional Democrats — including 40 senators — who signed a friend-of-the-court brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act.

In his Facebook posting, Warner touts the work that he’s done on behalf of LGBT people — both as governor and a U.S. senator. Although in 2008 he campaigned in support of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” his position changed after his election and he voted for repeal.

“I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT state workers,” Warner writes. “In 2010, I supported an end to the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and earlier this month I signed an amicus brief urging the repeal of DOMA. I believe we should continue working to expand equal rights and opportunities for all Americans.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s latest congressional scorecard gives Warner 76 points out of a possible 100 points. Warner lost points for not co-sponsoring legislation such as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, and the Uniting American Families Act.

Elected as a U.S. senator in 2008 at the same time President Obama was elected to his first term to the White House, Warner’s six-year term will end to an end in 2014.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said he doubts Warner’s new support for marriage equality will have an impact on his 2014 re-election prospects.

“At present Warner has no opposition for reelection and most doubt he will have a truly serious opponent,” Sabato said. “So I doubt his position on gay marriage will have much impact. The ground has shifted dramatically anyway. This isn’t the intense hot button issue it once was.”

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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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