May 31, 2018 at 6:22 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Krishanti Vignarajah highlights support of LGBT rights

Krishanti Vignarajah is among the Democrats running for governor of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of Krish for Maryland)

Krishanti Vignarajah on Tuesday said her position within the Obama administration solidified her support for LGBT rights.

Vignarajah, who was former first lady Michelle Obama’s policy director, during a telephone interview with the Washington Blade as she was traveling to a campaign event in Western Maryland with her 11-month-old daughter noted President Trump has been “far, far less supportive” of LGBT rights than former President Obama. Vignarajah also specifically criticized the Trump administration over its efforts to ban transgender people from the military.

“Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until you lose it,” she said.

Vignarajah, 38, was 9-months-old when her parents fled the civil war in their native Sri Lanka and settled in Maryland.

“The Maryland where Krish grew up gave her parents opportunities to serve as public school teachers in Baltimore City,” reads Vignarajah’s campaign website. “But Baltimore schools were more than an employer for Krish’s parents; they became part of the family as teachers and principles alike helped new immigrants navigate a new country and become part of a new community as neighbors.”

Vignarajah’s website notes she was with her mother when she canvassed in support of former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)’s first U.S. Senate campaign.

Vignarajah worked for former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) when she was in college. Vignarajah was also a senior adviser to former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.

Vignarajah said as governor she would support Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s decision to challenge the Trump administration’s efforts to ban trans people from the military. Her campaign platform also notes she would take “decisive action here at home to ensure that no discrimination occurs within” the Maryland National Guard and “fight any discrimination on federal facilities or installations” in the state.

Vignarajah supports the repeal of Maryland’s sodomy law and would seek to eliminate the provision of the state’s trans rights law that exempts religious institutions and private institutions. Vignarajah’s campaign platform also calls for an end to discrimination against LGBT Marylanders in housing, healthcare, employment, education and public services.

“Discrimination manifests itself uniquely in different communities,” it reads. ” I also plan to work closely with local leaders to target specific points of tension and the barriers to equality.”

Vignarajah has called for the use of additional funding from Maryland’s general fund to combat homelessness among LGBT youth. She would also support legislation “explicitly protecting” adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Vignarajah’s platform also calls upon the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to make it easier for Marylanders to change the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

“My administration will make Maryland the most welcoming and anti-discriminatory state in the union,” says Vignarajah on her campaign website.

Vignarajah is running against Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), former Montgomery City Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, former State Department official Alec Ross. The winner will face Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in November.

Vignarajah would be Maryland’s first female governor if she were to win the general election. Madaleno could become the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S. if he were to defeat Hogan.

“The diversity of the field is the diversity and strength of our party,” Vignarajah told the Blade. “There are so many ways we can make history this year and part of that is incredibly exciting.”

Vignarajah also lamented the fact that all of Maryland’s previous governors have been white men.

“The fact that we have never had an openly gay governor is a lack of diversity,” she said. “The fact that we have never heard a woman here in Maryland be governor, but also a woman of color be governor in the Democratic Party is a lack of diversity.”

“Our elected officials need to look like our constituents,” added Vignarajah.

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

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