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McAuliffe: School boards should make ‘own decisions’ on trans students policy

Former Va. governor debated Republican challenger on Thursday

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Terry McAuliffe, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.

When the moderator asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”

This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills.  

HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)

Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.

“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.

Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”

But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.

“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”

McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.

Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.

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District of Columbia

Rooftop Pool Party postponed

Capital Pride Alliance moves official event to June 22

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A scene from last year's Capital Pride Rooftop Pool Party. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Rooftop Pool Party, originally scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. tonight, has been postponed until Thursday, June 22, according to a statement released by the Capital Pride Alliance on Instagram. This action comes amid an international climate event created by the Canadian wildfire that has resulted locally in poor air quality and a haze around the region.

The Capital Pride Alliance Instagram account posted, “As with all concerns regarding health and safety issues, the Capital Pride Alliance will closely monitor the air quality situation resulting from Canadian wildfire smoke and take necessary precautions in consultation with our partners in the DC government.”

“What does this mean for the pool party?” a question one private Instagram account user posed in the comment section.

“Important Update:” A representative of the Capital Pride Alliance responded through the group’s official Instagram account. “Tonight’s Capital Pride RoofTop Pool Party at VIDA The Yards is being postponed until Thursday, June 22 at 8:00 pm, due to the current air-quality situation resulting from the Canadian wildfires smoke. Please note that this postponement only applies to today’s event.”

The Capital Pride Alliance has yet to cancel or postpone any further events.

The White House earlier today rescheduled a large outdoor Pride reception planned for this evening to Saturday.

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District of Columbia

White House postpones Pride event due to wildfire smoke

Thousands expected for celebration bumped to Saturday

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The White House on June 8, 2023. A White House Pride reception was postponed due to the Canadian wildfire smoke. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The White House announced Thursday that a Pride event scheduled for this evening has been postponed to Saturday due to the lingering Canadian wildfire smoke.

The smoke has enveloped D.C. in a dangerous haze that triggered a “purple alert” on Thursday, considered worse than a “red alert.”

The event, expected to draw thousands of invited LGBTQ advocates and supporters to D.C., has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday on the South Lawn of the White House, the same day as D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade, which kicks off at 3 p.m., and Pride on the Pier celebration, which starts at 2 p.m.

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Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth election canceled after just 3 candidates file for 3 races

Mayor Stan Mills unopposed in bid for second term

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Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills gets a second term after no one filed to run against him. (Photo courtesy of Mills)

Rehoboth Beach voters won’t be heading to the polls this August because municipal elections were canceled after just three candidates filed to run for three open seats.

Stan Mills will be Rehoboth’s mayor for a second term, while Patrick Gossett, who’s gay, will remain on the Board of Commissioners and Donald Preston will join the board, replacing Jay Lagree.

Lagree filed to run in the Aug. 12 election but withdrew from the running shortly thereafter. He did not respond to a voicemail asking why he withdrew, but released a statement citing his age and hearing loss as reasons for bowing out of the race.

“After much consideration, I am withdrawing my candidacy for city commission,” he said in a statement released on June 6. “I have been honored to serve on the commission and to serve the citizens of Rehoboth Beach, and I had intended to continue my service. However, I am getting older every day. My hearing has become a problem; although, with correction, I can do pretty well most of the time.”

Mills was the target of criticism when he ran for mayor three years ago, unseating incumbent Paul Kuhns. Critics were concerned about his stance on development, which surfaced when Mills voted against Clear Space Theatre’s plans to build a new complex on Rehoboth Avenue, killing the already approved deal that was widely supported by the local business community.

More than a decade ago, as city commissioner, Mills used an ordinance to target bars hosting late-night eating and drinking on outside patios. Six of the eight bars targeted were owned and operated by gay businesspeople, former Aqua Grill owner Bill Shields told the Delaware State Public Integrity Commission. Police arrested and fingerprinted Shields before releasing him later as it became clear that Aqua Grill was grandfathered in and did not have to follow the ordinance. In a sharply worded decision, Delaware’s Public Integrity Commission said Mills used his public office for personal gain when targeting the bars, since he owned a bed and breakfast next door, and should have recused himself from the decision.

Asked about it in 2020, Mills told the Blade that it was “old news.”

“I’m sorry that happened, I’m sorry the way that was perceived,” he said. “It’s lessons learned and not forgotten, but we have to move on.”

On Monday, Mills raised the Pride flag outside of city hall and presented CAMP Rehoboth, the local LGBTQ community center, with a proclamation honoring LGBTQ+ Pride month along with two commissioners.

CAMP Rehoboth declined to comment on the election, citing its 501(c)(3) status, which does not allow it to endorse candidates.

When Mills ran for election in 2020, real estate agent Joe Maggio called attention to the issue, writing in an editorial for the Blade that Mills “uses his official role to enhance his personal interests and impose his personal prejudices.”

Mills did not respond to an email and voicemail seeking comment.

Gossett, who did not immediately respond to a voicemail, has served on the Board of Commissioners for 10 years. He was one of four commissioners that voted to overturn Clear Space Theatre Company’s approval to build two buildings in downtown Rehoboth in 2021. Clear Space appealed to Delaware’s Superior Court but later dropped the lawsuit, citing the cost of litigation and other factors. It has since abandoned plans to build the expansion in downtown Rehoboth, but executive director Wesley Paulson told the Delaware Business Times they will look for a new location “outside of the city.”

Preston is a political newcomer but comes endorsed by Lagree.

“He’s young, smart, has the same goals and objectives for Rehoboth Beach as I have,” he told WGMD.

Preston did immediately respond to a voicemail. The three politicians will be certified on June 16.

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