Connect with us


Va. lawmakers leave LGBTQ students in precarious position

‘Politicizing and censoring our nation’s history’



Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to sign a bill giving parents the power to review sexually explicit content before it is taught in the classroom. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Legislation proposed during the Virginia General Assembly’s 60-day session has angered LGBTQ activists in the state as they say it will bar self-expression in schools and uphold troublesome relics of past homophobic legislation. 

A bill giving parents the power to review sexually explicit content before it is taught in the classroom was passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and is likely to be signed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

Officially listed as SB 656, it also requires educators to provide alternatives to instructional material and related academic activities that include sexually explicit content. 

The bill, spearheaded by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, is in line with Youngkin’s 2021 gubernatorial campaign during which he promised to give parents a more involved role in determining their children’s curriculum. 

“This administration has made it a priority to enact classroom censorship, politicizing and censoring our nation’s history and the lived experience of marginalized communities,” said Breanna Diaz, policy and advocacy counsel at American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. ACLU of Virginia is a private non-profit organization that advocates for LGBTQ individuals in the commonwealth through public education, litigation, and advocacy.

 “[This bill], arguably, is going to erase LGBTQ history and LGBTQ figures and movement leaders from the classroom,” she said.

Although lawmakers proposed the bill with one of the goals being to facilitate curricula lucidity between schools and parents, various local school divisions already had systems in place that kept parents aware of any controversial content that would be discussed in classes. 

“Parents always get copies of the reading lists that their children are expected to go through,” said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, in a February interview with the Virginia Mercury. 

The goal of the bill, activists say, is to remove literature from the classroom that explicitly discusses race and sexuality and thwarts students’ and teachers’ ability to express their identities. 

“SB 656 is duplicative and redundant and adds an additional layer of labor on educators to avoid confusion and possibly getting in trouble for doing their job and teaching everything,” said Diaz. “They might have to develop multiple curricula, or just outright remove entire books, lessons, and studies.” 

The General Assembly also struck down legislation that would have given voters a chance to decide on whether to overturn a now-defunct provision in the commonwealth that bans same-sex marriage. 

The Marshall-Newman Amendment — approved in 2006 — defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and anti-LGBTQ groups argued that repealing the bill would help legalize polygamy and child marriage in the state.

“It is defunct, discriminatory, bigoted, and it has no place in our constitution,” said Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia. “Marriage equality is the law of the land,” she said. 

Gov. Youngkin has opposed marriage equality. He, however, has also stressed that it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor, the Washington Blade reported in January.

Activists in other states, such as Texas, are also pushing to amend parts of the constitutions that clutch onto homophobic relics of history in legislation.

These efforts have been in vain as the Texas Legislature failed to repeal a homophobic law that has been unenforceable since 2003, The Guardian reported in 2019.

“That bad example in Texas is what we’re seeing play out in Virginia,” said Diaz.



Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July



(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

Continue Reading


Equality Virginia, HRC PACs endorse 21 ‘pro-equality champions’

Democrats have 21-19 majority in Va. Senate



Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign political action committees on Thursday endorsed 21 “pro-equality champions” who are running for the Virginia General Assembly.

State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is running for the state Senate, is among the candidates who the PAC endorsed. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and state Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) are two of the other endorsed candidates.

“This year in Virginia, we had the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in a single legislative session. Time and time again, anti-equality lawmakers and the Youngkin administration have made it clear that they will continue to disrespect and disregard the lives and lived experience of LGBTQ+ people within Virginia,” said Equality Virginia PAC Executive Director Narissa Rahaman. “We must elect pro-equality champions who will secure and strengthen our freedoms. We have that chance as the eyes of the nation are on us this November. The general assembly is a vital check on executive overreach, and that’s why it is so important for us to ensure both chambers are filled with pro-equality members. We’re grateful to the Human Rights Campaign for their steadfast support in Virginia and for helping activate key pro-equality voters across the commonwealth.”

Republicans currently control the House by a 51-46 margin, while Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.

In-person early voting begins in Virginia on Sept. 22. The general election takes place on Nov. 7.

Continue Reading


Anti-transgender Republican running against Danica Roem

Trailblazing trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate



Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 23, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas)’s Republican opponent in her state Senate race continues to highlight his opposition to transgender rights.

Bill Woolf’s consulting company, Woolf Group Strategic Solutions, in an April 15 Facebook post noted the Biden-Harris administration “has proposed a rule change that would make transgender sports bans illegal under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding.” The post invites organizations to contact his company if they need “assistance or guidance in submitting a public comment.”

Woolf on April 21 liked a tweet from the Republican Party of Virginia that defended House Resolution 734.

“HB 734 does not ban trans students from competing on school sports teams,” reads the tweet in response to Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan’s statement about why she voted against HB 734. “It simply says that students must compete on the teams that correspond with their biological sex.”

Woolf on April 20 liked an anti-transgender tweet the Redheaded Libertarian posted.

“Telling a child he or she is ‘born in the wrong body’ is one of the more sinister evils in our society,” wrote the Redheaded Libertarian. “How are you going to tell a child, in all her wonder and innocence, that she was a mistake, who needs to be ‘fixed’ with drugs. mutilation and sterilization?”

Woolf on March 11 spoke at a human trafficking forum the Catholic Diocese of Arlington organized.

“When we start taking about the gender identity issues, we get into some pretty controversial stuff, but the reality is that because of the confusion that society is causing with our young people — particularly those that, you know, are being told to identify as a certain way — is making them even more vulnerable to the traffickers,” said Woolf. “There’s been many boys, both that I’ve worked with and that some of my colleagues have worked with that have been victimized, that were told — they were convinced by the trafficker that they had a same-sex attraction when really they didn’t and after coming out of that trafficking scenario, once they were able to escape they were able to come forward and say no, that’s not who I was, but I was manipulated into believing that.”

Woolf on Aug. 15 said he is “100 percent committed to passing Sage’s Law,” a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.

State Del. David LaRock (R-Loudoun County) earlier this year introduced the measure in the Virginia House of Delegates, but the Virginia Senate Education and Health Committee killed it. (The Loudoun County Republican in June lost the Republican primary in the new State Senate District 1.)

Woolf and others who support Sage’s Law maintain it is necessary to fight human trafficking in Virginia.

Va. Republicans ‘reprising Bob Marshall’s 2017 campaign’

Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a prominent LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

The Republican Party of Virginia in a campaign flyer that Woolf’s campaign approved notes Roem “voted no on requiring schools to inform parents of students experiencing gender incongruence — deliberately keeping parents in the dark on issues their children are facing.”

A Republican Party of Virginia ad against Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas)

Another RPV flyer shows Woolf with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and notes they are “protecting high school girls’ sports.”

“Virginia Democrats support biological boys competing against biological girls in high school sports,” reads the flyer. “Governor Youngkin needs Bill Woolf in the state Senate to pass commonsense legislation that protects girls’ sports. It’s about fairness.”

A Republican Party of Virginia ad in support of Bill Woolf’s state Senate campaign. (Courtesy photo)

Youngkin has repeatedly said he does not support trans children on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. The Virginia Department of Education last month released new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students that Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares in a nonbinding legal opinion he released on Aug. 24 said school boards must adhere.

“There is a war on families right now, and this is one of the main reasons that I’m running to be a state senator here in District 30, serving the people in Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County,” said Woolf on Aug. 25 during an appearance on “The Vince Coglianese Show.” “We’ve got to bring some common sense back. And I think that so many people are quick to jump to conclusions. We see so often where they’re not looking for consensus or looking for real solutions. They just want to shout from the rooftops about things that, quite honestly, many of them are not informed about.”

Woolf during the interview reiterated his support for Sage’s Law.

“I’ve worked human trafficking. I’ve seen this my entire life. I’ve seen exploitation. And I think what’s critically important to understand about this case is ultimately because of the actions that happened and because of the separation from the family, Sage was sex trafficked not once but twice. And these are things that we have to collectively come together to push back on and to protect our children,” he said. “That is how the traffickers work, that is their number one tactic, and it really bothers me when we have situations where the schools are telling kids to not talk to their parents, to keep secrets. Right, because that’s what traffickers want. Do they want to create isolation? They want to create dependency on the trafficker and pull them away from their families, their support structures, those that love them. And this is the way that they manipulate them.”

Coglianese during the interview repeatedly misgendered Roem.

Woolf used female pronouns to refer to his opponent, but noted she was “on her way to Hollywood this weekend to do a fundraiser in West Hollywood.” 

“Clearly nothing’s changed, still pulling in a great deal of funding from out of state. And that’s problematic,” Woolf told Coglianese. “You know, it’s problematic because a lot of what she’s doing is in California and we’ve seen through her record over the past six years where she’s supporting the California ban on gasoline engines, forcing Virginians buy electric cars. A lot of the other things around child protection laws, you know, she’s bringing back to Virginia. And I think it’s time that we stand up as a community and say we’re not California, we’re Virginia. And this is what we want to, you know, we need to be able to make the decisions for us.”

Woolf in a statement his campaign sent to the Blade on Wednesday said “everybody has a right in this country to make decisions about the way they live their lives and that includes choices as an adult over their gender. That is why we have laws in place to protect those choices.” 

“However, I have dedicated my career to preventing human trafficking and sex trafficking and protecting vulnerable women and children. There are many documented examples where children have been preyed upon and trafficked in Virginia schools, and where opportunities to stop that sex trafficking was missed because parents were not informed about warning signs their children were exhibiting in school,” added Woolf. “If like me, you’ve had to look a parent in the eye and tell them their son or daughter has been sex trafficked, and that chances to protect them were missed, you come to the conclusion that shutting parents out is a dangerous choice. Parents must be at the head of the table when dealing with these difficult issues so children can access the correct help and support they need to deal with those challenges. Too many children in Virginia schools are being put at risk by denying parents vital information about their own kids.”

Roem on Tuesday during a telephone interview with the Blade noted 40 percent of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ and the primary reason they are unhoused is because their family has rejected them. Roem said Woolf is “looking for any excuse possible to discriminate against trans kids.”

“When you’re trying to make anti-trans policy in Northern Virginia, you’re going to try to go for any way possible to make it palatable with the public here,” said Roem.

Roem further defended her legislative accomplishments in Richmond.

“When you look at this campaign this year, you see me campaigning on my record of passing 41 bills: Feeding hungry kids, more than $33 million to fix Route 28,” she said. “I’m campaigning so heavily on my record … they’re reprising Bob Marshall’s 2017 campaign. It’s stunning that in my fourth campaign for office, the Republicans are running anti-trans candidates over and over and over and over again.”

In-person early voting begins in Virginia on Sept. 22. The general election takes place on Nov. 7.

Republicans currently control the House by a 51-46 margin, while Democrats have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.


Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade