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Va. school district refuses grant from LGBTQ group

Board members opposed It Gets Better Project money



E.C. Glass High School (Facebook photo)

At its regular board meeting last week, the Lynchburg City School Board voted 7-2 against accepting a grant from the It Gets Better Project. The Lynchburg News and Advance reported that the $10,000 grant was earmarked to develop a safe-space or “quiet room.”

The E.C. Glass High School Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club was awarded the grant back in August as part of the nonprofit’s “50 States 50 Grants 5,000 Voices” program, an “initiative to fund projects that support and uplift LGBTQ+ identity in schools across the U.S. and Canada.”

In an interview with WSET, Brittany Harris, co-president of the GSA Club, E.C. Glass was the first school in Virginia to be awarded the money from the grant.

“We worked so hard to get this,” Harris said. “We submitted videos and testimonials from our students and how they have conquered so much; it was so surreal to be awarded the grant.”

During the Oct. 24 school board work session meeting, Board Chair Atul Gupta and Lynchburg City Schools Supt. Crystal Edwards told E.C. Glass principal Daniel Rule to provide more information on it and answer questions about the grant. This was also requested of the student GSA officers.

“Many schools within LCS already have such rooms and they have been shown to promote student self-regulation and are correlated to better student outcomes,” Rule told the board at that meeting.

“The students selected this project due to the high rate of bullying that the LGBTQIA+ community experiences, but the entire school would be welcomed and encouraged to use the room. The budget for the room includes flexible seating, interactive sensory devices, non-intrusive lighting and white noise machines,” Rule added.

During the Nov. 14 meeting the Lynchburg News and Advance reported that five E.C. Glass students and GSA club members told the board why they applied for the grant and why they picked the projects it’s intended to fund.

“Many students, including myself, struggle with mental health. School can be overwhelming just by itself, but a lot has happened in the last three or four years, what with the uncertainty of COVID along with the many lockdowns and how those have affected students,” junior Lindley Crosby said.

“Students have skipped school because they don’t feel safe or they don’t feel supported and these classrooms can be disruptive and chaotic and sometimes it can be too much. We want to provide this safe room so they have somewhere to go and breathe for a second.”

There were points that the meeting became contentious, a grandparent and guardian of an E.C. Glass student, Greg Barry, spoke in opposition to the grant.

“Let me be very clear, the LBGTQ agenda in schools is about indoctrination and grooming our children into an evil and wicked lifestyle, all while circumventing the rights and responsibilities of parents,” he said.



TikTok video of Va. father at school board meeting goes viral

Cody Conner’s child is transgender



Cody Conner, a father of three kids, gave a passionate speech to the Virginia Beach City Public Schools' board meeting supporting LGBTQ kids. (Photo courtesy of Cody Conner's Facebook page)

Cody Conner, a father of three kids, gave a passionate speech supporting LGBTQ kids during the Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ board meeting last month that was uploaded as a TikTok video that has since gone viral. 

Conner excoriated the board for considering implementation of Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s anti-transgender school policies. 

“You are never going to find a right way to do the wrong thing and Gov. Youngkin’s policies are wrong,” Conner told the board.

“Never in history have the good guys been the segregationist group pushing to legislate identity,” he said. “Never in history have the good guys been closely connected with and supported by hate groups like the Proud Boys. And the good guys don’t put Hitler quotes for inspiration on the front of their newsletters. News flash: They’re the bad guys. They’re the bad guys supporting bad policy. And if you support the same bad policy, guess what? You’re one of the bad guys too.”

“When you look around and see only the wrong people supporting what you’re doing, you’re doing the wrong thing. Now you’ve heard some speakers come up here and say how they love these kids but won’t accept them. I’m here to tell you that if your love makes somebody not want to be alive, it’s not love. That’s not love.

Some of you are going to get up here and say ‘it’s the law.’ Well, I remind you that slavery and segregation used to be the law here in Virginia.

I just knew I couldn’t standby and do nothing, just let it happen and hope everything worked out ok and I also wanted to make sure my kid knew that I would stand up for them,” Conner explains as he begins to tear up. “My big job as a parent is not to tell my children who they are, it’s not to make the decisions for them, it’s not to live their life or decide what their life is going to be, but to show them the best way I know how to walk through this world.”

According to PRIDE journalist Ariel Messman-Rucker, Conner moved his family to Virginia Beach right before Youngkin’s policies passed and he worries about the future of his 13-year-old transgender daughter who is now in the 8th grade. The family moved from rural Virginia to Virginia Beach so that their kid, who came out as trans a year ago, would be in a school system that would be supportive, but that all changed because of Youngkin.

The 42-year-old father told PRIDE he’s a quiet person and might not have made the choice to speak up if not for his kids. 

Virginia’s Department of Education at the direction of the governor has set out “model policies” for public schools that require students to use the bathroom and sports team that matches their sex at birth. 

The policies require written instruction from parents for a student to use names or gender pronouns that differ from the official record, meaning that teacher can deadname students — refer to them by their prior name — if paperwork isn’t filled out by the parents and it requires the school to inform parents if a student is questioning their identity, according to WVEC.

LGBTQ rights activists, including Equality Virginia, have stated these policies will be especially detrimental to LGBTQ students who come from conservative non-affirming homes.

The Virginia Beach School Board in a 9-1 vote approved an updated policy for trans and nonbinary students.

The new policy will require teachers to use pronouns and names that are on official record with exceptions for nicknames commonly associated with the student’s legal name. If a student requests anything else, teachers will be required to report it to the parents. Students must also use bathrooms and participate in sports teams that correspond to their assigned sex. 

@beezay22 #CapCut #virginia #virginiabeach #schoolboard #schoolboardmeetings #lgbtqiaplus #transrightsarehumanrights #protecttranskids #stoptransgenocide #fyp ♬ original sound – BeezayDad

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Va. says Loudoun County photographer can refuse to shoot same sex weddings

Bob Updegrove challenged 2020 nondiscrimination law



(Bigstock photo)

Virginia last week said a Loudoun County photographer who filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s nondiscrimination law can refuse to photograph same-sex weddings.

Bob Updegrove in 2020 filed a federal lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Values Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ legal group who represents Updegrove, on its website said the law that took effect on July 1, 2020, “forces him to use his artistic talents to photograph same-sex weddings if he photographs weddings between one man and one woman.” The Alliance Defending Freedom further notes the Virginia Values Act “violates foundational rights set forth in the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment’s Free Speech and Free Exercise clauses.”

A Nov. 3 filing with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond notes the state will not “force” Updegrove “to offer or provide photography celebrating same-sex weddings.” It also refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 303 Creative ruling in favor of Lorie Smith, a Colorado graphic artist who refused to make wedding websites for same-sex couples, even though the state’s nondiscrimination law bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Alliance Defending Freedom represented Smith in her case.

Republican Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares was among the defendants named in his Nov. 3 filing with the 4th Circuit.

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Danica Roem elected to the Va. Senate

Democrats now control both General Assembly chambers



Virginia state Sen.-elect Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters at the Virginia Portuguese Community Center in Manassas, Va., on Nov. 7, 2023.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MANASSAS, Va. — Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Tuesday won her race the state Senate.

The Manassas Democrat defeated Republican Bill Woolf by a 51.5-48.2 margin.

“I’m grateful the people of Virginia’s 30th Senate District elected me to continue representing my lifelong home of western Prince William County and greater Manassas,” said Roem in a statement after she declared victory. “The voters have shown they want a leader who will prioritize fixing roads, feeding kids and protecting our land instead of stigmatizing trans kids or taking away your civil rights.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson is among those who canvassed with Roem and other Democratic candidates on Monday in Manassas.

HRC in a tweet noted Roem will be the second transgender person elected to a state senate in the U.S. (Roem in 2018 became the first trans person seated in a state legislature in the country. Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride took office in 2021.)

“Congrats to pro-equality and HRC-endorsed Senator-elect Danica Roem,” said HRC. “Senator-elect Roem is only the second openly transgender person elected to a state senate in the country. This is an historic step toward building power for the transgender community and LGBTQ+ folks everywhere.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson, center, with now state Sen.-elect Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Nov. 6, 2023, in Manassas, Va. (Photo courtesy of HRC)

The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and Equality Virginia’s PAC also congratulated Roem.

“Danica faced an unprecedented deluge of anti-trans hate on the campaign trail, but she was not fazed nor distracted,” said Victory Fund President Annise Parker in a statement. “She made LGBTQ+ history tonight because she put constituents first, speaking to the real issues that impact children and their families in Virginia, from fixing roads to ensuring kids and families have food on the table.”

Roem spoke to supporters at the Virginia Portuguese Community Center in Manassas after she declared victory.

(washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

Democrats regain full control of General Assembly

Democrats on Tuesday regained control of the Virginia House of Delegates, which they lost in 2021 when Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin won the governorship. Democrats maintained control of the state Senate.

Abortion and trans rights — including new guidelines for trans and nonbinary students — are among the issues that loomed over Tuesday’s election.

“Today, Virginians made their voices heard at the polls and sent a clear message to Gov. Glenn Youngkin and MAGA Republicans that we will not follow other Southern states who turned back the clock on progress,” said former House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn in a statement. “Virginians have voted to reject extreme abortion bans and have once again chosen a vision of a Virginia that is more open, welcoming, and prosperous.”

Robinson also highlighted these issues when she spoke with the Washington Blade on Monday.

“We’ve seen more bills attacking trans youth in the state of Virginia than at any other point in the commonwealth’s history,” she said. “People are clear about what’s at stake right now and really wanting to get politicians in office who are going to put the state back on track.”

Other LGBTQ incumbents, candidates win races

Roem is among the many LGBTQ candidates who won their respective races on Tuesday.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) defeated Republican Sophia Moshasha in Senate District 39 by a 78.1-21.6 percent margin. State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County) won re-election in House District 17.

Ebbin and Sickles are both gay.

“Virginians don’t want the government banning books, and interfering with their personal freedoms — whether it’s their reproductive rights, the right to breathe clean air, the safety of our communities from gun violence or the sanctity of our democracy,” said Ebbin in a statement.

“Despite breaking spending records, Gov. Youngkin was just served the biggest political rejection by voters of any Virginia governor in over three decades,” he further stressed. “Virginians sent Youngkin a message loud and clear tonight. In spite of his unprecedented campaign spending — and attempts to deny the right to vote to thousands in the run up to this election — his campaign to divide Virginia failed.”

State Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach), who is bisexual, defeated Republican Mike Karslake in House District 96 by a 54.9-41.5 percent margin. Pansexual state Del. Marcia “Cia” Price (D-Newport News) won re-election in House District 85.

Former state Del. Joshua Cole, who is bisexual, defeated Republican Lee Peters in House District 65 by a 52.6-47.1 percent margin.

Democrat Rozia Henson won in House District 19. Democratic Fairfax County School Board member Laura Jane Cohen defeated Republican Marcus Evans in House District 15 by a 61.2-38.6 percent margin, while Democrat Adele McClure won in House District 2.

Henson, Cohen and McClure are gay, bisexual and queer respectively.

State Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach) defeated Zach Coltrain, a gay Gen Zer, in House District 98.

Frisch re-elected to Fairfax County School Board

Fairfax County School Board Vice Chair Karl Frisch won re-election. Robyn Lady, who is a lesbian, and Kyle McDaniel, who is a bisexual, won their respective campaigns for the school board.

“Tonight’s results show people are fed up with the political attacks targeting our world-class public schools and teachers, and putting our students in danger,” said Frisch. “Fairfax County residents have made it clear: They want safe and inclusive schools for every student, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.”

Michael Pruitt on Tuesday became the first bisexual man elected to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Allison Spillman, whose child is trans, won a seat on the Albemarle County School Board.

Big Stone Gap Town Councilman Tyler Hughes, who is gay, won re-election. Blacksburg Town Councilman Michael Sutphin, who is also gay, won his race.

Christopher Kane contributed to this story.

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