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Va. House subcommittee rejects marriage amendment repeal resolution

Republicans killed measure by 6-4 margin

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Tuesday rejected a resolution that sought to repeal a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The Republican-led House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee struck down the resolution that state Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) introduced by a 6-4 margin. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) has introduced an identical resolution in the state Senate.

Virginia voters approved the Marshall-Newman Amendment in 2006.

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

The General Assembly in 2021 approved a resolution that seeks to repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment. It must pass in two successive legislatures before it can go to the ballot.

Republicans took control of the state House of Delegates last month days before Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office. Democrats maintain control of the state Senate by a 21-19 margin.

“This morning, Virginia Republicans continued their assault on LGBTQIA+ individuals by killing an amendment that would have removed Virginia’s now-defunct marriage equality ban from the state constitution,” said House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) in a statement she released after Tuesday’s vote.

“Our Democratic House majority passed laws to make Virginia a more open and inclusive place,” she added. “As a result, more businesses chose to relocate and expand in the commonwealth. Virginia Republicans threaten to take us backwards by stoking the flames of hate and division, rather than accurately reflecting the laws of the country.”

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Virginia

Student activists picket Loudoun Co. School Board

Members of the Pride Liberation Project call for ‘trans rights now’

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Members of the Pride Liberation Project hold signs supporting trans rights during a Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A group of student activists from the Pride Liberation Project picketed in front of the Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9 in Ashburn, Va. Members of the group chanted, “trans rights now” in front of the administrative building at the start of the session.

Loudoun County Public Schools student activist Daniel Tanedjaja told the Blade, “I am here in solidarity and support for our trans and gender non-conforming students here. In actuality, a lot of our trans and gender non-conforming kids at Loudoun County Schools don’t know that there is a gender neutral bathroom option and I would like the school to make it more accessible to them.”

Activists were seated during the community input portion of the school board meeting. Some of the protesters held up signs supporting trans rights during anti-LGBTQ public comments at the podium by conservative community activists.

The Pride Liberation Project is a Northern Virginia-based student-led organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights.

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Virginia

Va. students warn against ‘don’t say gay’ policies

New law requires parental notification of ‘sexually explicit content’ in classroom

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(Bigstock photo)

More than 600 students from across Virginia signed a letter from the Pride Liberation Project that calls for the Virginia Department of Education to clarify that teaching students about LGBTQ people and events is not “sexually explicit.”

Senate Bill 656, which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed earlier this year, requires parents be notified when instructional materials contain โ€œsexually explicit contentโ€ โ€” without any input from students.

Current Virginia law defines โ€œsexual conductโ€ as โ€œmasturbation, homosexuality, sexual intercourse, or physical contact in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification.โ€

Because SB 656 does not itself specify what constitutes โ€œsexually explicit content,โ€ LGBTQ students and activists are concerned that the bill will rest on Virginiaโ€™s pre-existing definition of sexual conduct.

In theirย full letter, signees argued that โ€œIn effect, SB 656 can potentially be interpreted to define all references to people in same-sex relationships as inherently sexual.โ€

โ€œConsequently, all references to LGBTQIA+ people in K-12 schools, including Supreme Court cases, historical events impacting LGBTQIA+ people, and discussions about queer authors, may be deemed as sexually explicit content under SB 656, effectively erasing LGBTQIA+ representation in our school curriculum,โ€ reads the Pride Liberation Project’s press release.

Representation has been shown to positively increase academic performance, and LGBTQ youth already face exacerbated risks of suicide and mental health crisis. In Virginia specifically, the vast majority of LGBTQ students reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, and 26 percent of LGBTQ students reported being โ€œdisciplined for public displays of affection (PDA) that did not result in similar action for non-LGBTQ students.โ€ 

 โ€œMost of my LGBTQIA+ friends are already struggling with their mental health,” said one Loudoun County student in the Pride Liberation Project press release. “Iโ€™m scared about the message these guidelines could send and losing the already limited affirming representation in my class.โ€ 

Another student from Richmond said that they โ€œdidnโ€™t want to see their friends who are from homes that arenโ€™t accepting not see themselves reflected at school.โ€ 

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Va. lawmaker accused of destroying neighbors’ property

State Del. Dave LaRock said Pride flags were meant to provoke him

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Virginia state Del. Dave LaRock (Screen capture via NBC4 Washington)

A Northern Virginia lawmaker is facing accusations of property destruction after removing signs and security camera posts installed by neighbors on shared property.

State Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County), who has represented the area since 2014, shares an easement road with his neighbors, Walter and Christina Curfman, that leads to his Hamilton home that is currently for sale. The couple has accused LaRock of criminally removing the posts and signs and breaking the cameras in the process.

Footage from the coupleโ€™s property shows LaRock removing private property signs from the coupleโ€™s fence and uprooting security camera posts from the ground before dropping them onto the coupleโ€™s yard within the fenced area.

The Curfmans also placed atop their fence posts a number of Pride flags.

Representing Virginia’s 33rdย District that covers parts of Loudoun, Clarke and Frederick Counties, LaRock has established himself as a conservative member of the House’s Republican Caucus. Alongside his support for conservative causes that include abortion rights restrictions, religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and the ability to pray in public schools, LaRock has historically expressed opposition to public Pride displays.ย 

In 2016, responding to a proposal from the Loudoun County supervisor to recognize June as Pride Month, he wrote that โ€œwhile there may be instances where Pride is a good thing โ€ฆ having our Loudoun County government publicly proclaim to be proud of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) movement is not such an instance.โ€

Such a public proclamation of Pride, LaRock wrote at the time, โ€œpromotes homosexuality and gender confusion to people of all ages but ignores the real physical and psychological harms associated with those lifestyles and the harm of the sexually explicitly material used to promote, affirm and recruit young school-aged children to those lifestyles.โ€

While LaRock did not remove the flags posted along the fence, LaRock believes that their presence was meant to provoke his ire.

โ€œMaybe she just wants all our guests to know that they are supporters of the LGBT community,โ€ LaRock said in an interview with NBC4. โ€œOr maybe [Curfmanโ€™s] doing it because she thinks it bothers me.โ€

The incident is not the first to occur along the easement road between the neighborsโ€™ homes. 

Last year, court documents detail that LaRock had been found guilty in the Loudoun County General District Court of two counts of pulling down his neighborsโ€™ fence or leaving a gate open following incidents in October 2020. LaRock was later acquitted of the misdemeanor charges upon appeal to the Loudoun County Circuit Court, where Judge Daniel Bouton rejected the assertion that such incidents merited a criminal case.

LaRockโ€™s office did not respond to the Washington Bladeโ€™s request for comment but told NBC4 that he will take the issue back to the courts as he plans to file a civil lawsuit to affirm actions and interpretation of what activities and uses are permissible within the easement area.

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