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Danica Roem announces run for Va. state Senate

Democrat is first out trans person seated in U.S. legislature



Virginia state Del. Danica Roem at the Victory Fund's National Champagne Brunch. (Blade file photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem on Monday announced she is running for the state Senate.

Roem, 37, is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

“I know the issues,” Roem told the Washington Blade before her announcement. “I am just as comfortable defending the Rural Crescent (in Prince William County) from development as I am about talking about Route 28 in Manassas.”

Roem in 2018 became the first openly transgender person stated in a state legislature in the U.S. Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election.

Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride in 2020 became the first out trans person elected to a state senate in the U.S. Roem would become the second openly trans state senator in the country if she were to win her race in 2023.

Former Manassas City Council member Ian Lovejoy is the only Republican who has announced he is running for the seat. Roem is the only Democrat who has thus far entered the race.

“The reason I’m running for state Senate in 2023 is to keep continuing the constituent work that I’ve been doing,” Roem told the Blade.

Roem noted 32 of her bills have passed in the General Assembly since her election.

Former Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, last year signed Roem’s bill that bans the so-called LGBTQ panic defense in Virginia. Roem’s measure that expanded the state’s free school breakfast and lunch programs also took effect in 2020.

Roem noted to the Blade that she voted to expand Virginia’s Medicaid program. Roem also pointed out that one of her nine bills that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin has signed will reform the state’s guardianship program.

“We did big things this year with my legislative agenda and we took care of constituent service requests,” said Roem, while noting her platform before the 2023 election will be “fixing roads, feeding kids.”

Roem declared her state Senate candidacy roughly six months after Youngkin defeated former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Democrats lost control of the House of Delegates.

Democrats maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate.

Youngkin last month signed a bill that will require school boards to notify parents about “sexually explicit materials in the classroom.” The measure did not specifically define “sexually explicit content,” and activists have expressed concern that Virginia Republicans will seek to limit student access to LGBTQ materials.

Resolutions to repeal a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman died in the General Assembly earlier this year.

Roem noted she “spoke out on the House floor and told the stories of my LGBTQ constituents who are same-sex couples.” Roem in March also corrected state Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle County) on the House floor when he misgendered her during a debate over a bill that would once again allow local police and prosecutors to withhold information about inactive cases if they receive a Freedom of Information Act request.

“I’m a good Democrat who also has a very strong bipartisan record,” said Roem. “You don’t pass 32 bills into law as a trans woman without infinite patience.”

Roem acknowledged she is “not getting a world of emails” from her constituents about efforts to repeal LGBTQ rights in Virginia, “but it has come up in conversations one on one.” Roem further reiterated that she will continue to take “on the very people who are stigmatizing trans kids.”

“We’re going to be taking them on directly,” she said. “I don’t attack my constituents. We serve them. They need to see someone in the halls of power who looks like them.”

“My name is the equality part of that platform,” added Roem. “My presence on the ballot as a trans woman running is the equality part of my platform.”

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Equality Virginia to track implementation of trans, nonbinary student protections

State Department of Education issued guidelines in 2020



(Bigstock photo)

Equality Virginia on Thursday announced it will track whether school boards have implemented the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman in a press release notes “almost half of Virginia’s K-12 students attend schools in divisions that have fully adopted VDOE’s model policies for the treatment of transgender students” since their issuance in 2020. 

“These policies, developed in accordance with evidence-based best practices, give teachers and administrators critical tools to create safe, inclusive and learning environments for all students,” said Rahaman. “School boards in every corner of our commonwealth have a unique and urgent opportunity to protect transgender students by adopting the model policies.”

Equality Virginia in its press release further noted the School Board Policy and Meeting Tracker will “provide parents, advocates and students information on local school board meetings, potential agenda items and opportunity for public comment, and whether the school district has adopted” the guidelines.

Thursday’s announcement coincides with continued challenges to the guidelines and ongoing efforts to curtail the rights of trans and nonbinary students in Virginia.

Virginia lawmakers earlier this year tabled two bills that would have eliminated the requirement for school districts to implement the guidelines.

The Hanover County School Board last month approved a policy that requires trans students to request permission to use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. GLSEN earlier this month sharply criticized Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin after he called for schools to out trans and gender nonconforming students to their parents.

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Youngkin appoints three new Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board members

Casey Flores resigned last month after offensive tweets surfaced



Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Monday announced the appointment of three people to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Youngkin’s office in a press release noted Log Cabin Republicans of Hampton Roads President Phil Kazmierczak, Preston Main of Hanover County and Thomas N. Turner of Suffolk City have been named to the board.

Virginia Log Cabin Republicans President Casey Flores last month resigned from the board before his tenure began. The resignation came amid growing controversy over a series of anti-LGBTQ and misogynist comments he made against Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), among others.

“Casey Flores withdrew and resigned from the board as he is accepting a professional opportunity outside of the commonwealth,” Youngkin’s spokesperson told the Blade on Tuesday. 

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Va. advocacy groups urge state Supreme Court to uphold teacher firing

Peter Vlaming fired over refusal to use student’s correct pronouns



Virginia Supreme Court (Photo by sainaniritu/Bigstock)

Equality Virginia and a number of other advocacy groups on Wednesday asked the Virginia Supreme Court to uphold the West Point School Board’s decision to fire a teacher who refused to refer to a student by pronouns that corresponded with their gender identity.

The West Point School Board in 2018 fired French teacher Peter Vlaming after he refused to use male pronouns when referring to a student who was transitioning from female to male.

The anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom represents Vlaming.

The King William County Circuit Court dismissed Vlaming’s case. The Virginia Supreme Court in March agreed to consider it.

“Transgender and nonbinary students, when compared to their cisgender peers, face physical abuse, bullying, and extreme emotional harm at higher rates, which impact their well-being and education,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman in a press release that announced the filing of the amicus brief to the Supreme Court. “The West Point School Board’s antidiscrimination and anti-harassment policies aim to counteract and prevent those harms. We know that transgender students thrive when they are supported by an inclusive school environment, which includes using their correct pronouns.”

Equality Loudoun, FCPS (Fairfax County Public Schools) Pride and GLSEN are among the other advocacy groups that signed the amicus brief. Fairfax County School Board member Karl Frisch, Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, Arlington School Board member David Priddy, Falls Church City School Board Chair Laura Downs, Falls Church City School Board members David Ortiz and Lori Silverman and Stafford County School Board member Elizabeth Warner are also signatories.

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