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

Democrats have 21-19 majority in Va. Senate

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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.

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Virginia

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

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July

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(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. 

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Anti-transgender Republican running against Danica Roem

Trailblazing trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate

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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.

 

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Miyares: Va. school boards must adhere to new trans, nonbinary student guidelines

Districts in Northern Virginia have defined rules

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(Bigstock photo)

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares on Thursday said school boards must adhere to the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

Miyares in a letter to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin said the guidelines “comply with the Equal Protection Clause, Title IX and the VHRA” (the Virginia Human Rights Act) and “local school boards are required to adopt policies that are consistent with them.”

The Virginia Department of Education last month released the new guidelines.

One section states “schools shall defer to parents to make the best decisions with respect to their children.”

“Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender that differs from their child’s sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender that differs with their child’s sex while at school,” it reads.

Another section notes “schools shall keep parents informed about their children’s well-being.”

“To ensure parents are able to make the best decisions with respect to their child, school personnel shall keep parents fully informed about all matters that may be reasonably expected to be important to a parent, including, and without limitation, matters related to their child’s health, and social and psychological development,” it reads. “Parents’ rights are affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court that characterized a parent’s right to raise his or her child as ‘perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this court.’ Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000). This requirement is, of course, subject to laws that prohibit disclosure of information to parents in certain circumstances including, for example, Code of Virginia § 22.1-272.1(B) (prohibiting parental contact where student is at imminent risk of suicide related to parental abuse or neglect.)”

The guidelines further state “schools shall serve the needs of all students” and the Virginia Department of Education “is committed to working with school divisions to ensure a positive, safe and nurturing learning environment for all students.” 

“Each student’s individual needs should be taken into consideration by his or her school, and divisions should develop policies that encourage schools to account for these individual needs, with due sensitivity to the needs of other students and the practical requirements of the teaching and learning environment,” reads the guidelines. “Schools should attempt to accommodate students with distinctive needs, including transgender students. A team of appropriate school staff and other caregivers should collaborate with the student’s parents or with an eligible student to identify and implement such reasonable accommodations or modifications (if any), considering the resources and staff available in the school and school divisions, as well as the rights and needs of other students and of school staff.” 

The guidelines further state “single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students.” 

“To ensure that all students have access to a learning environment in which they feel comfortable and safe, where state or federal law requires schools to permit transgender students to share otherwise sex-segregated facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) with students of the opposite sex, parents should be given the right to opt their child out of using such facilities, and the child should be given access to alternative facilities that promote the child’s privacy and safety,” reads the guidelines. “Eligible students should be given the same right to opt out.”

Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools have announced they will not implement the new guidelines. NBC Washington on Thursday reported Miyares’ opinion is “nonbinding.”

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