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Anti-gay group joins Va. marriage case

Alliance Defending Freedom representing defendant

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An anti-gay group is representing a defendant in a case that challenges Virginia's same-sex marriage amendment (photo via wikimedia).

An anti-gay group is representing a defendant in a case that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage amendment (photo via wikimedia).

An anti-gay group is representing one of the two defendants in a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban.

Court documents indicate the Alliance Defending Freedom on Monday filed a status report with Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Monday on behalf of Prince William County Circuit Court Clerk Michèle McQuigg. Norfolk Circuit Court Clerk George Schaefer has tapped lawyers with former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Virginia Beach law firm to represent him in the case.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs — Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Richmond — filed their own status report with Allen after she questioned whether a hearing in the case that is scheduled to take place on Thursday “remains warranted” following Attorney General Mark Herring announcement he will not defend the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban.

“Virginia’s definition of marriage does not codify impermissible sex or sexual orientation discrimination,” wrote Alliance Defending Freedom lawyers in the status report it filed with Allen. “As to the claim of sex discrimination, Virginia’s marriage laws treat men and women identically. No man or woman is permitted to marry a person of the same sex, so there is no ‘differential treatment for denial of opportunity for which relief is sought.’”

The Alliance Defending Freedom also dismissed attempts to compare this lawsuit to the case that prompted the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 to strike down interracial marriage bans in the landmark Loving v. Virginia ruling.

“While race is irrelevant to the state’s interest in marriage, the sex of the two individuals marrying is central,” wrote the group.

Allen dismissed the Alliance Defending Freedom’s request to delay the hearing that will take place as scheduled on Thursday. The judge’s order also indicates the Family Foundation of Virginia has also filed an amicus brief in the case.

“We expect the ADF to use the same tired arguments that we’ve seen lose repeatedly in courts across the country,” Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, which is representing Bostic and London and Schall and Townley, told the Washington Blade.

The Alliance Defending Freedom did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

Herring continues to face criticism for not defending marriage amendment

Virginia Republicans and social conservatives continue to blast Herring for not defending the marriage amendment that voters approved in 2006.

“The attorney general’s decision to refuse to enforce a duly-adopted provision of the Virginia Constitution is frightening,” said state Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County) on Sunday during the Republican Party of Virginia’s weekly address.

Republican Party of Virginia Chair Pat Mullins last week suggested Herring should resign if he won’t defend the gay nuptials ban. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said state lawmakers should impeach the attorney general.

A Virginia House of Delegates committee on Jan. 24 approved a bill that would allow any state lawmaker to defend a law if the governor and attorney general decline to do so. More than 30 legislators on the same day urged Gov. Terry McAuliffe to defend the state’s marriage amendment.

“There are people who are going to attack me and try to say, ‘Well it’s about the duty of the attorney general [to defend the marriage ban,]’” Herring told the Blade during a Jan. 23 interview. “In fact what they’re really upset about is that they disagree with marriage equality. And that’s their right, but it’s not the law.”

Alliance Defending Freedom staffers in 2013 testified against measures that sought to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Delaware and Rhode Island — gays and lesbians in the two states began to exchange vows last summer. The Arizona-based organization also filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

The justices last June found a portion of DOMA unconstitutional and struck down Prop 8.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has also represented a New Mexico photographer and two Vermont innkeepers who faced lawsuits from gays and lesbians who said the refused to do business with them.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last July criticized the Alliance Defending Freedom and other U.S. groups for supporting the campaign to defend Belize’s anti-sodomy law.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Matt Kleid

    January 27, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    ADF has been representing McQuigg since her motion to intervene in December.

  2. Jeff Jankowiak

    January 27, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    I am glad McQuigg selected ADF. Since their strategies and "facts" have lost every other case they are working on they will most likely here too. If they were to bring in someone else those lawyers might come up with something that would have some traction. These people clearly do not know it is time to get off this sinking ship.

  3. Norman Dostal

    January 28, 2014 at 12:49 am

    turns out there are no other reasons besides "Gays make me go ick" that arent religious…

  4. Stephen Clark

    January 28, 2014 at 2:06 am

    I remember how outraged Virginia Republicans were when Ken Cuccinelli ignored the actual job of attorney general and turned it into a right-wing crusade machine for four years. Oh, wait, no, they applauded that. It's bad enough to be bigots, but being hypocrites too is really rich.

  5. Bobby Oliver

    January 29, 2014 at 12:34 am

    The Family Foundation of Virginia–the anti-gay group that orchestrated and spearheaded the anti-marriage equality amendment– has also filed an amicus brief . Some of those denizens who wrap themselves in a "biblical world view" are Victoria Cobb, Roger Pogge, Va Delegate Brenda Pogge… and others.

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Biden endorses Roem for re-election

Former journalist is first out trans person in any state legislature

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. President Biden has endorsed her for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Biden on Tuesday endorsed Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) for re-election.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) is among the other Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates who Biden backed. Biden in his tweet also stressed his support of Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Building back better starts in the states,” tweeted Biden. “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect Terry McAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

Biden called Roem on the night she defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall and congratulated her. A Washington Post picture that showed Roem crying moments later went viral.

The Manassas Democrat who represents the 13th District in 2019 easily won re-election. Christopher Stone, the Republican who is running against Roem in this cycle, opposes marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

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Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools

‘Gender fluid’ 15-year-old accused of attacking female students

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The Loudoun County, Va., public school system’s recently adopted policy of allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity has come under fire over the past two weeks by outraged parents and conservative political activists following reports that a 15-year-old “gender fluid” boy allegedly sexually assaulted two girls in different high schools.

The parents of one of the girls released a statement through the Virginia-based Stanley Law Group blaming school officials for failing to put in place safeguards to prevent the boy, who they say was dressed in a skirt, from entering the girl’s bathroom to assault their daughter at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., on May 28.

The statement accuses Loudoun County Schools officials and the Loudoun County Board of Education of failing to take steps to prevent the same 15-year-old boy from allegedly sexually assaulting another female student at Broad Run High School, also located in Ashburn, on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom.

School officials acknowledge that the boy was transferred to the second school after law enforcement authorities released him from a juvenile detention facility following his arrest for the first case, in which the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said he was charged with two counts of forceable sodomy against his female victim. 

“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the parents’ statement says. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant,” the statement continues. 

“Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults,” says the statement.

Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler apologized at an Oct. 15 news conference for what he acknowledged was the school systems’ mishandling of the two sexual assault cases. He noted that school officials should have publicly disclosed the two cases or at least alerted parents at the time they occurred. But he said a federal civil rights law known as Title IX that mandates how schools must respond to cases of sexual harassment appeared to prevent Loudoun school officials from initially disclosing the two cases of sexual assault until they were investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Ziegler said the school system was revamping its disciplinary procedures and its interaction with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office to ensure that parents and students are alerted to potential danger similar to the cases where the 15-year-old boy allegedly assaulted the two female students.

Meanwhile, school officials and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Loudoun have pointed out that law enforcement officials have yet to confirm whether the 15-year-old boy charged in the two cases was actually dressed in women’s clothes during the first incident or whether he is trans or gender fluid.

Equality Loudoun’s president, Cris Candice Tuck, released a statement to the Washington Blade on Oct. 18 that she said was the first official known statement responding to the Loudoun school controversy from an LGBTQ organization.

“In light of the reporting of recent sexual assault allegations, the Board of Directors of Equality Loudoun wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these heinous attacks and their families,” the statement says. “Equality Loudoun advocates for due process and justice for the victims regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement continues. “Such actions have no place in our community, and Equality Loudoun does not condone any form of sexual violence, assault, or harassment,” it says.

“However, the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or genderfluid have so far been unverified,” the Equality Loudoun statement asserts. “Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy – other than the alleged perpetrator – does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes and already marginalized youth in our community.”

The statement adds, “We remind those advocating for change to the laws and policies that the initial assault predated any enactment of Policy 8040 by almost 4 months.”

The Equality Loudoun statement was referring to the fact that the Loudoun County School Board did not vote to approve the school system’s trans nondiscrimination policy until August of this year, more than three months after the first of the two sexual assault incidents occurred. 

The policy, among other things, allows transgender and genderfluid students to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy also requires that teachers, school administrators and fellow students address a trans or genderfluid student by their chosen name and pronouns.

“Inadvertent slips in the use of names and pronouns may occur,” the policy states. “However, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” it states.

The statement says that rumors of a bathroom “pilot” program that predated the official approval of Policy 8040 that would have allowed female trans or genderfluid students to use the girls’ bathrooms “are simply untrue” and were never put in place.

In a separate statement to the Blade, Equality Loudoun’s Cris Candice Tuck challenged claims by some parents and conservative political activists, some of whom are supporting Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAulliffe, that the trans nondiscrimination policy is placing students at risk for sexual assault.

“The adoption of nondiscrimination policies are in no way endangering students,” Candice Tuck said. “Across the country, sexual assaults have occurred in schools for decades before any transgender inclusive policies were passed,” she said. “And in those counties and states where such protections have passed in recent years, there has been no verified incidence of anyone abusing such policies to commit such attacks in schools.”

Candice Tuck added, “The focus should be on improving systems of reporting, coordination, and investigation, protecting the victims of these attacks, and creating safer school environments by creating modernized areas and bathrooms that increase protection for all students, including LGBTQ+ students who are statistically more likely to be the victim of such a crime.”  

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D.C. rejects request by gyms to lift mask mandate

LGBTQ-owned venues sign letter calling requirement ‘devastating’ for business

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Owners of two LGBTQ-owned D.C. fitness studios and one gym signed on to a joint letter with the owners of six other similar businesses urging D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. Laquandra Nesbitt to lift a city mandate requiring patrons of gyms and fitness studios to wear masks. 

The Oct. 4 letter, written by gay businessman Bryan Myers, the CEO and president of a chain of local fitness studios using the trademark name of [solidcore], states that the mask mandate, which applies to people who are fully vaccinated for the coronavirus, is based largely on outdated data pertaining to gyms and fitness studios collected prior to the widespread availability of the COVID vaccine.

“More relevant data to inform decision-making would be to study the data from two, large Northeastern cities that have opted to allow fitness classes to continue with the requirement of vaccination in lieu of a mask requirement,” the letter states. “In both New York City and Philadelphia, which have opted for this approach, we have not seen an increase in the trajectory of the Delta variant,” Myers says in the letter.

In the last week of July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a recommendation that cities and local jurisdictions with 50 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents per week, which at that time included D.C., should ask residents to voluntarily resume wearing masks indoors. That same week, Bowser announced she would go one step further by mandating the indoor use of masks in most public places, including gyms and fitness spas or studios. 

Bowser and Nesbitt said their intention was to take immediate steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus so that the city would not be forced to return to the full shutdown mode, including the closing of businesses, that the mayor lifted earlier this year.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced they would ask residents of their states to consider using masks in crowded indoor spaces as recommended by the CDC, but said they would not require mask use. 

In their letter to Bowser and Nesbitt, the gym and fitness studio owners called on the mayor to provide the same exemption to their businesses as the city has provided for restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, which requires masks except when patrons are eating and drinking. 

“While it is true that bars, restaurants, and clubs technically have to follow the same guidelines, we know that in practice, these venues have been granted exceptions by D.C. Health,” the letter says. “On any given night, you can find hundreds of individuals crowded into a U Street bar, at a Capitol Hill restaurant, or thousands at a performance or party at The Anthem enjoying themselves – singing, dancing and physically exerting themselves, shouting – maskless – so long as they have a drink somewhere nearby,” says the letter.

“And to be unequivocally clear, we are not advocating that there is anything wrong with what is happening in other industries or that there be a change to the management of those industries/venues,” the letter continues. “We are simply advocating that we be treated the same as they are.”

The letter adds, “Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the mask mandate for fitness studios and gyms has resulted in devastating financial impact to these businesses – many of which are small locally owned.”

It says patronage has dropped 50 percent for some of the fitness centers and gyms since the mayor’s mask mandate took effect July 29. It points out that the drop in customers comes at a time when many of these businesses have spent thousands of dollars and in some cases hundreds of thousands to upgrade their ventilation and filtration systems and other structural steps to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

Myers told the Washington Blade in a statement that neither the Department of Health nor the mayor’s office replied directly to the gym and fitness studios’ letter.

Channel 7 News reported that in response to its request for the city’s reaction to the gym and fitness studios’ concerns, the Department of Health released a statement saying, “D.C. Health’s stance is that persons should wear masks in gyms and during this time [we] do not have plans to change our stance on this guidance.”

In his statement to the Blade, Myers said the D.C. gym and fitness studios were frustrated and disappointed that the city at this time is not open to reconsidering the mask mandate for gyms and fitness studios, many of which he said are barely surviving.

“This mandate is directly affecting the livelihoods of residents of the District, many of whom are women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+ in a policy that is simply not equitable, and is steering residents away from services that can help improve the overall health of our community,” Myers said.

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