By ADAM EBBIN & MARK SICKLES
While many in our community are already looking ahead to the 2016 primaries, this Nov. 3, Virginians will have a chance to elect all 140 state senators and delegates. And in Fairfax County, voters will determine the future of the school board that oversees the Commonwealth’s largest school system — and the 10th largest in the nation.
For LGBT and allied voters, equality is truly on the ballot. Over the past year, the Fairfax County School Board members have cast three significant votes to advance equality — a vote to add sexual orientation to the existing non-discrimination policy, a vote to add gender identity to the same rule, and a vote to update the Family Life Education curriculum to tell teenagers that some people are LGBT and that that is OK (a curriculum from which parents can opt-out their kids).
These simple changes shocked state and national anti-LGBT groups including the Family Foundation of Virginia, the Traditional Values Coalition and the Virginia Christian Alliance. They vowed to make Fairfax County “ground zero” in the fight against LGBT protections and hundreds of angry people from Fairfax and the D.C. metro area flooded the school board meetings to scream ugly insults at the board members, demand they respect “parental rights” and “God’s law,” and warning the changes would lead to boys going into the girls bathroom. Having lost, those groups are doing everything they can to gain a majority on the school board and repeal these common-sense policies — and we must not let them.
Voting in favor of all three pro-equality policies were at-large school board members Ryan McElveen, Ilryong Moon, and Ted Velkoff, Braddock District member Megan McLaughlin, Hunter Mill District member Pat Hynes, Dranesville District member Jane Strauss, Lee District Member Tamara Derenak Kaufax, and Mason District Member Sandy Evans — all who whom are seeking re-election.
Mt. Vernon District candidate Karen Corbett Sanders (running for an open seat), Sully District candidate Karen Keys-Gamarra (running for an open seat), and Providence District candidate Dalia Palchik (running against incumbent Patty Reed, who did not back the gender identity and education provisions) have each also made it clear that they do not support discrimination of any kind.
Every Fairfax voter can cast one vote for district representative and three votes for at-large members. The school board races are on the second page of the ballot, so be sure to fill out the whole thing.
A statement on the Republican district committee’s website warns that “Fairfax County School Board has been busy pushing leftist ideas about sexuality onto children (rather than teaching them about science, math, technology, humanities, liberal arts, etc.) against the will of the parents.” Let’s make sure, with our votes, that their efforts to stack the school board in Fairfax are soundly rejected on Nov. 3.
Adam P. Ebbin is a member of the Virginia Senate. Mark D. Sickles is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.