January 4, 2018 at 6:00 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Va., Md. legislative sessions to begin on Jan. 10

Delegate-elect Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) and Delegate-elect Danica Roem (D-Manassas) (Photo of Adams courtesy Adams; Washington Blade photo of Roem by Michael Key)

The 2018 legislative session in Virginia will begin next week with two more openly LGBT members of the General Assembly.

State Delegates-elect Danica Roem (D-Manassas) and Dawn Adams (D-Richmond) will take office in the Virginia House of Delegates on Jan. 10 when the General Assembly convenes. They will join state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Dels. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) and Mark Levine (D-Alexandria).

Roem, who defeated longtime state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County), will become the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the country. Adams, who defeated state Del. Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond), is the first open lesbian elected to the General Assembly.

Marshall, who had been in office since 1992, was one of the General Assembly’s most outspoken opponents of LGBT rights.

He co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved. Members of the House General Laws Subcommittee in 2017 killed Marshall’s bill that would have prohibited Roem and other trans people from using public bathrooms based on their gender identity.

“Bob Marshall presented a very mean-spirited vision each year toward the LGBT community,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

“It’s good to see that he has been sidelined,” he added.

Parrish said state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) and state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) plan to introduce a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy to minors in Virginia. Parrish also told the Blade that he expects lawmakers will once again seek to expand anti-discrimination protections in the state and codify marriage rights for same-sex couples into law.

Control of Va. House remains uncertain

Chris Hurst, a former reporter for WDBJ, a Roanoke television station, last November defeated state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County), who is the first Republican state lawmaker in Virginia to publicly back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Hurst’s girlfriend, WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were shot to death in 2015 during a live broadcast.

Hurst is among the 15 Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents in the House of Delegates. It nevertheless remains unclear whether Democrats will control the chamber once the legislative session begins.

The Virginia Board of Elections on Thursday is scheduled to conduct a drawing to break the tie between Democrat Shelly Simonds and state Del. David Yancey (R-Newport News) in the 94th District.

A federal judge in Alexandria on Friday will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the results of the election between Republican Bob Thomas and Democrat Joshua Cole in the 28th District after 147 voters in Stafford County and Fredericksburg received the wrong ballots. The Virginia House Democratic Caucus is seeking a new election in the contested race.

“Lots going to happen this week,” Parrish told the Blade.

Governor-elect Ralph Northam and Lieutenant Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax’s inauguration will take place on Jan. 13. State Attorney General Mark Herring will be sworn in for a second term on the same day.

Conversion therapy bill to be introduced in Md.

The 2018 legislative session in Maryland will also begin on Jan. 10.

A bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy to minors in Maryland is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

“It’s important to have these types of measures to protect LGBT kids,” Jennifer Kent, managing attorney at FreeState Justice, told the Blade on Wednesday during a telephone interview. “This makes sure our kids are protected from harmful ‘mental health practices’ that have been universally condemned.”

Other observers with whom the Blade spoke this week agreed the 2018 gubernatorial and legislative elections will dominate this year’s General Assembly.

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and former NAACP President Benjamin Jealous are among the Democrats who are running to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

State Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer are running for the Maryland Senate. Gabriel Acevero, a labor organizer, is running to represent the 39th District in the state House of Delegates.

“It’s an election year,” Beyer told the Blade on Wednesday, while noting concerns over President Trump and his administration’s policies may come to dominate the session. “We’re in the midst of this constitutional crisis . . . you never know what you’re going to have to do.”

Bruce DePuyt, a senior reporter at MarylandMatters.org, told the Blade on Wednesday there is uncertainty in Maryland and other high-income states around the tax bill that Trump signed last month. DePuyt also said the Jan. 19 deadline to avert a federal government shutdown is among the other issues that could impact the legislative session in Maryland.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty because of what’s happening or not happening in Washington,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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