June 13, 2017 at 8:58 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Va. trans candidate wins primary, now faces anti-LGBT lawmaker
Danica Roem, gay news, Washington Blade

Danica Roem is a transgender journalist who is challenging Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall. (R-Prince William County) (Photo courtesy of Danica Roem)

A transgender former journalist pulled off a surprise victory in a Virginia primary on Tuesday, winning the Democratic nomination to face off against anti-LGBT Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) in the general election.

Danica Roem, who was seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the 13th District seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates, beat out Steve Jansen, Andrew Adams and Mansimran Kahlon to win her party’s backing, the Associated Press reported at 8:30.

Roem’s opponent in the general election, Marshall, has a long anti-LGBT history over the course of his 13 terms in the Virginia General Assembly. Marshall was responsible for the Marshall-Newman Amendment, which made a ban on same-sex marriage part of the state constitution in Virginia until a federal judge overturned the measure.

More recently, Marshall pushed legislation that would bar transgender people from using the restroom in any government-owned building consistent with their gender identity.

At the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund brunch last month, Roem acknowledged her victory over Marshall would have particular significance, referencing his remarks calling transgender people “gender confused.”

“Let me make this really clear for you: When the people of the 13th District elect a transgender woman to replace the most anti-LGBT legislator in the South, it will be an act of certainty, and it will be a defining moment that will resonate across the country,” Roem said.

If Roem succeeds in besting Marshall, she could become the first openly transgender person to be elected and seated as a state legislator. The general election will be held Nov. 7.

Former Massachusetts State Rep. Althea Garrison, who served in the legislature from 1993 to 1995, but was outed as transgender in 1992 by then U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney’s adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, who after her election produced a birth certificate identifying her as male. However, Garrison never acknowledged she was transgender and subsequently lost each of her bids for re-election.

In 2012, Stacie Laughton won election in New Hampshire to represent Nashua in the statehouse. However, media outlets she had been convicted of a felony and served in prison for credit card fraud and falsifying physical evidence. Under New Hampshire law, she wasn’t able to be seated in the state legislature.

Roem isn’t the first openly transgender person to win a state legislative primary. In 2014, Lauren Scott won the Republican primary in her bid to represent District 30 in the Nevada State Assembly. Scott was unsuccessful in the general election in that race and her subsequent bid two years later.

It may be true Roem is the first openly transgender person to win a state legislative primary within the Democratic Party. In 2012, Laughton was running for the Democratic nomination in a three-seat district and there were three Democrats, according to the New Hampshire Democratic Party. While technically Laughton was unopposed in the primary, there was still a primary ballot, which allows for write-ins.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, CEO of Victory Fund, hailed Roem’s victory in a statement as evidence of the growing power of the transgender movement.

“Danica Roem is a leader in a national movement of trans candidates who are determined to become a voice for their community in the halls of power,” Moodie-Mills said. “This historic primary win sets up a general election battle where voters will choose between ‘Bigot Bob’ Marshall – the most anti-LGBTQ member of the Virginia state legislature – or Danica, a proud trans woman who is committed to representing all people in her district. I am confident voters will choose leadership over divisiveness and make Danica the first out trans candidate to win and serve in a state legislature.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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