October 1, 2018 at 5:52 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Northam, McAuliffe speak at NOVA Pride Festival
NOVA Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

NOVA Pride drew about 4,000 people, including Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe were among the speakers at the 5th Annual Northern Virginia Pride Festival held Saturday, Sept. 29, on the fairgrounds of Bull Run Special Events Center in Centreville, Va.

Brian Reach, president and executive director of NOVA Pride, the group that organizes the annual festival, said about 4,000 people from Northern Virginia and the D.C. metropolitan area turned out for the event.

Among the more than 70 booths at the festival consisting of LGBT and LGBT supportive nonprofit organizations and many LGBT supportive small and large businesses, including GEICO Insurance and Gilead Sciences pharmaceutical giant, were booths catering to children and pets.

“We wanted to be a little bit different, a little bit more of a family focus,” said Reach in discussing the evolution of the NOVA Pride Festival since it was launched in 2014. “It’s dog friendly. It’s laid back. It’s a fall festival,” he said. “And I think it’s coming together very well.”

Also speaking at this year’s festival was Danica Roem, who became the nation’s first transgender person to win election to a state legislature last year when she won her race for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in Prince William County.

After speaking, Roem, a Democrat, joined Democratic Party officials from several Northern Virginia counties in greeting festival goers and urging them to vote in the Nov. 6 election for LGBT supportive candidates for Congress and various county government bodies.

Among the candidates present that Roem is backing was Democrat Jennifer Wexton, who is challenging Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock for the 10th District U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia. Wexton has expressed support for LGBT rights in contrast to Comstock’s opposition to LGBT issues on a number of fronts.

“It’s wonderful to see everybody here enjoying a beautiful day and celebrating our pride,” Wexton told the Blade as she and her supporters walked through the festival grounds greeting potential voters.

In his remarks from the festival’s main stage Northam thanked organizers for inviting him to speak and urged people to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

“I see a lot of my friends in the audience,” he said. “And I would not be here now if it wasn’t for you all who got out last year and made a difference and knocked on doors,” he said. “And I just want to remind you that these elections have tremendous, tremendous consequences,” he continued, adding, “So I encourage all of you to go out and exercise your right to vote on the 6th of November.”

Northam noted that similar to his predecessor Terry McAuliffe, the first thing he did after being sworn in as the state’s 73rd governor was to sign an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT people in state government agencies.

“It’s the diversity in our society that makes us who we are, not only in Virginia but in this country,” he said. “So as long as I have anything to do with it, we will be inclusive in Virginia. It doesn’t matter the person that you love. It doesn’t matter the country you come from, the color of your skin, or the religion you practice. We welcome people to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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