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McAuliffe: Youngkin ‘most homophobic’ candidate in Va. history

Former governor spoke with Blade on Oct. 21

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Terry McAuliffe (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Terry McAuliffe described Republican Glenn Youngkin as the “most homophobic” and most “anti-choice candidate” in Virginia history during an Oct. 21 telephone interview with the Washington Blade.

“I’m running against the most homophobic, anti-choice candidate in Virginia history,” said McAuliffe. “I ran against Ken Cuccinelli. That’s saying something.”

McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in 2013 defeated Cuccinelli, Virginia’s then-attorney general who vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights, in that year’s gubernatorial race. Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is running against McAuliffe in the race to succeed current Gov. Ralph Northam.

State Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) is running for lieutenant governor, while Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election. They are running against Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares respectively.

The entire Virginia House of Delegates is also on the ballot on Nov. 2. The outcome of those races will determine whether Democrats maintain control of the chamber.

Youngkin remains opposed to marriage equality

The Associated Press a day after McAuliffe spoke with the Blade published an interview with Youngkin in which he reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin. The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia’s political action committee are among the groups that have backed McAuliffe.

Youngkin earlier this year said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Youngkin has also expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect trans and non-binary students.

HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. McAuliffe scoffed at this recognition.

“They should have checked with their co-CEO who’s against marriage equality,” he told the Blade. “That would have been the first place I would have gone to ask.”

‘I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody’

McAuliffe’s first executive order as governor after he took office in 2014 banned discrimination against LGBTQ state employees. He also vetoed several anti-LGBTQ religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board and became the state’s first governor to declare June Pride month.

McAuliffe noted to the Blade that he is also the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple whom he married has recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

“I spent four years vetoing every single legislation Republicans brought forth and came across my desk that would have discriminated against the LGBTQ community,” said McAuliffe. “I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody.”

McAuliffe noted that CoStar, a D.C.-based commercial real estate company, moved more than 1,000 jobs to Richmond from Charlotte after then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and prohibited municipalities from enacting LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. McAuliffe described HB 2 to the Blade as the “anti-gay bill.”

“There’s real consequences … to discriminatory actions and I will not tolerate any of it,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama campaigns with Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 23, 2021. Obama is among the prominent Democrats who have traveled to Virginia in recent weeks to campaign on behalf of McAuliffe. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

McAuliffe last month said during his first debate against Youngkin that local school boards “should be making their own decisions” with regards to the implementation of the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for trans and non-binary students. McAuliffe during his second debate against Youngkin stressed “locals” should provide input on the policy, but added “the state will always issue guidance.”

McAuliffe told the Blade he has “been so offended about how many folks have tried to really demonize our children here in this state.” McAuliffe referenced children with “self-identity issues” during the interview, but he did not specifically cite those who identify as trans or non-binary.

“We’ve got to help our children … we got to help our children who are desperately in need today,” he said. “And we got to show them that we’ll be there for them, as I say, no matter how they identify or who they love.”

Youngkin on Saturday during a campaign event in Henrico County said he would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia schools. McAuliffe criticized his opponent on this issue when he spoke with the Blade.

“Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia, nor has it ever been taught,” said McAuliffe. “These are dog whistles that are used, and especially in the CRT, it’s a racist dog whistle and it just fits into this whole pattern of using our children as political pawns and I hate it.”

Youngkin ‘would drive businesses out of’ Va.

McAuliffe has continued to portray Youngkin as an extremist on other issues that range from abortion and vaccine mandates as polls suggest the race between the two has grown tight. McAuliffe also continues to highlight former President Trump’s support of Youngkin.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin is “100 percent against abortion” and said his opponent would “bring those Texas-style type abortion” laws to Virginia.

The law, which bans almost all abortions in Texas and allows private citizens to sue doctors and anyone else who helps a woman obtain one, took effect last month. The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1 will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges the law.

“We always knew that the Supreme Court would be a backstop on women’s rights issues: Roe v. Wade. That is gone. It’s over,” said McAuliffe. “Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is going to overrule the basic tenants of Roe v. Wade.”

McAuliffe added the Supreme Court “is going to allow these states to roll back women’s reproductive rights, so that’s no longer a talking point.”

“This is reality,” said McAuliffe. “Every woman in Virginia needs to understand it.”

Terry McAuliffe has said Glenn Youngkin poses a threat to abortion rights in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Youngkin, for his part, has said he would not have signed the Texas law.

Trump on Oct. 13 described Youngkin as a “great gentleman” when he called into the “Take Back Virginia Rally” in Henrico County that John Fredericks, host of “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” who co-chaired the former president’s 2016 campaign in Virginia, organized.

Participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that was present at the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Youngkin in a statement his campaign released said he “had no role” in the event and said it was “weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6.”

“As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong,” he said.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin would make Virginia “a dangerous place to live and work.”

“His governorship, if he were to be elected, would roll back individual liberties,” said McAuliffe. “He doesn’t support gay marriage, he is for eliminating abortion here in the commonwealth of Virginia and he will drive businesses out of our state and finally it is dangerous for people.”

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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