Pride month is, first and foremost, an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate our identity and to state loudly and clearly that we are here. And we have much to celebrate. The last 10 years have seen more progress on LGBTQ+ rights than we saw in the 40 years prior to that. Same-sex marriage was legalized, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was repealed, and more companies than ever have adopted LGBTQ-inclusive policies, ensuring that queer people can go to work and feel welcome. So much progress has been made, and we should recognize and celebrate that at Pride events everywhere.
The last two years, however, have seen some of this progress rolled back. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans continue attempts to ban trans people from serving in the military. Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services is proposing a rule that would eliminate nondiscrimination protections based on sex, gender identity, and association from the Affordable Care Act. Mitch McConnell has blocked any action on the Equality Act, which passed the House in a historic vote on May 17.
The federal government is pursuing a course of hostility toward the LGBTQ community. That hostility will likely continue until Trump and Pence leave office, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait until 2020 to make life better for queer people.
In November of this year, Virginians will elect their state delegates and senators. Republicans currently hold a two-seat majority in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly. That majority has blocked any action on LGBTQ non-discrimination bills for years, keeping Virginia as one of the 26 states with no anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. We can change that.
There are fantastic Democratic candidates running to unseat Republican delegates and senators all around Virginia: Joshua Cole running for delegate in Stafford County, Ghazala Hashmi running for senator in the Richmond suburbs, and Sheila Bynum-Coleman running to unseat the Speaker of the House of Delegates himself in Chesterfield, just to name a few. They all have the energy and the ideas it takes to win. They can flip the General Assembly in November. They can ensure that the Commonwealth of Virginia protects its LGBTQ residents from housing and employment discrimination. But to do that, they will need help.
I urge LGBTQ people from the D.C. metro area to come to Virginia and campaign: knock on doors, distribute campaign literature, and make phone calls. If we help the Democrats take the General Assembly this year, we can make Virginia a more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people. We can give ourselves one more thing to celebrate during 2020’s Pride month.
Patrick Cochran is the chair of the Virginia Young Democrats’ LGBTQA Caucus. Reach him at [email protected]. The views expressed here represent those of the author as chair of the Virginia Young Democrats’ LGBTQA Caucus. They do not reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.