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Fairfax school board approves family planning benefits for LGBTQ employees, staff

Superintendent has six months to implement plan



Karl Frisch (Photo courtesy of Karl Frisch)

The Fairfax County School Board on Tuesday voted in favor of a new proposal that would start the process of achieving family planning benefit parity for LGBTQ employees and staff.

The decision, which board members unanimously approved, mandates Supt. Michelle Reid to develop a legal plan as to how the school system can achieve parity in the realm of family planning benefits for qualified LGBTQ employees.

Family planning coverage — which includes health screenings, infertility and preconception services and methods to both prevent pregnancy and help achieve it — is designed to offset the financial costs for those who are seeking to form their own families.

Co-sponsoring the proposal with fellow board member Megan McLaughlin, Karl Frisch released a statement following the decision. The policy, Frisch said, would help to maintain and grow their workforce and lead the school system toward a more equitable environment for employees.

“To attract and retain a premier workforce, especially in this extremely competitive hiring environment, qualified FCPS employees must have equitable access to the school division’s robust family planning medical benefits,” Frisch said. “Our LGBTQIA+ employees and their families deserve the same respect and support as anyone else. Fairness is fundamental.”

Frisch in his statement also makes note of the broader disparities in family planning benefits when detailing the rationale behind the board’s decision.

“Almost universally, medical insurance providers define family planning benefits that assist with conception in heterosexual terms, leaving qualified LGBTQIA+ employees with limited access to the same benefits enjoyed by their non-LGBTQIA+ colleagues and forcing them to pay for needed treatments out of pocket,” Frisch wrote.

Given the additional services typically required for LGBTQ individuals and couples to become parents, the disproportionate costs are often exacerbated when medical insurance declines to cover such costs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Data collected by Family Equality, a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote equality for LGBTQ families and those attempting to start them, suggests that in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment alone —which same-sex couples wishing to have biological connection to their children widely use — can cost anywhere from $13,500 to more than $21,000.

This is on top of data that, as Family Equality notes, suggests LGBTQ households in America make less on average that non-LGBTQ households.

Although Frisch acknowledged that parity is being achieved to a greater extent on local levels and in the private sector, he said the statewide landscape made the school board’s decision necessary.

“Some local governments and corporations have established grant programs to bridge this gap and provide family planning benefit parity for qualified LGBTQIA+ employees,” Frisch wrote. “In addition, a few states now require insurances companies to provide family planning benefit parity for LGBTQIA+ people — Virginia does not.”

Following the approval of the proposal, the board has given Reid six months to create the plan that will “analyze current [Fairfax County Public Schools] family planning benefits” in order to identify appropriate benefits and achieve such parity within the district.



Former Log Cabin Republicans executive director named to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

R. Clarke Cooper ‘proud to accept’ Youngkin’s appointment



R. Clarke Cooper (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has named former Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

“Proud to accept appointment from Gov. Glenn Youngkin to serve on the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board,” wrote Cooper in a post on his LinkedIn page. “Every citizen of the commonwealth has God given inalienable rights, envoys individual liberty and is charged with individual responsibility.”

“May Virginians judge our neighbors on the content of their character, not by their sexual orientation,” he added.

Youngkin announced Cooper’s appointment on March 10.

Cooper, an Army Reserve officer who served in the Iraq War, as Log Cabin Republicans’ executive director from 2010-2012. 

He was Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2019-2021. Cooper is currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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Va. education superintendent resigns

Jillian Balow tenure coincided with proposed revisions to trans, nonbinary student guidelines



Jillian Balow (Public domain photo via Virginia Department of Education)

The Virginia Department of Education’s Superintent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow resigned last week.

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin last January appointed Balow, who had previously been Wyoming’s State Superintent for Public Education, to the position before he took office.

The Washington Post reported Balow in her March 1 resignation letter said she was “grateful and humbled” to have been appointed. Youngkin, for his part, thanked Balow for “her work in advancing the governor’s education agenda to empower parents and restore excellence in education.”

Youngkin last September announced plans to revise the guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students that his predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam, signed into law in 2020. The Virginia Joint Commission on Administrative Rules late last year voted to formally object to Youngkin’s proposal that has yet to be implemented.

The Post noted Balow during her tenure faced questions over efforts to revise Virginia’s history and social studies curriculum standards, among other things.

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All 12 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced during Va. legislative session die

Democrat-controlled state Senate blocked all measures



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session ended on Saturday without any of the 12 anti-LGBTQ bills that lawmakers introduced becoming law.

Republican lawmakers introduced measures that would have, among other things, banned transgender athletes from school teams that correspond with their gender identity and would have required school personnel to out trans students to their parents. Other bills sought to ban transition-related health care for minors in the state.

All of the measures died in the Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate.

“This session, 12 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the Virginia legislature targeted young people — specifically trans and nonbinary youth — further stigmatizing them at home, at school and in their communities. Schools should be safe spaces for all youth, and especially those who may face discrimination or feel singled out because of who they are. But, we saw a groundswell of opposition to these bills. We saw everyday Virginians show up in fierce opposition to all twelve bills and send a message that hate is not a Virginia value,” Equality Virginia Executive Director Narissa S. Rahaman told the Washington Blade on Monday in a statement. “To the trans youth in the commonwealth, I want to say: You are loved, you are perfect just the way you are, you are beautiful and you are worthy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. While we have a long way to go to make our schools more equitable places for all youth, defeating these bills is a big deal.” 

The Virginia House Amendment and Other Matters Subcommittee on Feb. 17 tabled state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria)’s resolution that sought to repeal the state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The openly gay Alexandria Democrat’s bill that would have made affirmed marriage equality in Virginia did not advance in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.

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