Make No Mistake: Equality is on the Ballot in Virginia

by Guest Contributors

By Carol Schall and Mary Townley

We’ve called Virginia home for the last four decades.

We love our Commonwealth. We love the people and communities that you only get by living here.

It hasn’t always been easy, though, as a same-sex couple. For most of the time we’ve been together, our relationship was not viewed as equal in the eyes of the law. In 2006, Virginia adopted a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

We never accepted the view that the love we shared was somehow less than that of other couples. So two years later, we traveled to California to be married. A few years later, we joined a lawsuit to overturn Virginia’s ban on marriage equality. We won. And then, of course, in 2015, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land for our entire country.

After years of progress at the state and national levels, however, the fight for full LGBTQ+ equality took a u-turn in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president.

On the former president’s watch not only were transgender Americans denied the opportunity to serve our country openly in the Armed Forces, but a litany of administrative policies began taking shape that would have dire and profound consequences for LGBTQ+ people, like the shameless attempts by the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services to allow doctors and hospitals to deny treatment based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

What’s worse, three anti-LGBTQ+ justices were confirmed to the Supreme Court — meaning once Trump was voted out of office, his influence on the lives and rights of LGBTQ+ people would live far beyond his tenure.

The last four years have all too often felt like a nightmare. Almost overnight, we went from feeling like equality was within our reach to once again being used as a political wedge issue.

Ten months into Joe Biden’s presidency, we are still digging our way out of the damage Donald Trump did to our community. And as Congress remains stuck in gridlock, it’s more important than ever that we have leaders at the state level who will stand with the LGBTQ+ community.

But the rhetoric of Trump and his allies still lingers, and we’re still seeing politicians across the country take a page from Trump’s divisive campaign playbook to win elections by maligning marginalized and vulnerable communities.

That includes politicians right here in Virginia, like Glenn Youngkin, who is running for Virginia governor.

In his campaign for Governor, Youngkin has been endorsed by the Family Research Council, a notorious anti-LGBTQ+ organization that is considered an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

That would be bad enough on its own. But what’s worse is that just a few days ago, Youngkin admitted to the Associated Press that he opposes marriage equality. That’s right. The man who wants to be the next Governor of Virginia does not personally believe in marriage for LGBTQ+ Virginians. In 2021.

Virginia can do better. Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McAuliffe, is a true champion for the LGBTQ+ community.

When he began serving as Virginia Governor in 2014, McAuliffe’s very first executive order banned discrimination against LGBTQ+ state employees. He established Virginia’s LGBTQ+ tourism board. He became the first governor in Virginia history to recognize June as Pride Month.

And if he’s elected to a second term this November, McAuliffe has pledged to break down disparities that still exist for LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, in access to health care, in education, and in economic opportunity. He will repeal the so-called “conscience clause” that allows government funded child welfare agencies to refuse to place kids in need of homes with same-sex couples.

The choice could not be any clearer for Virginians on November 2nd. Do we want to continue moving the Commonwealth forward on LGBTQ+ civil rights? Or do we want to reverse course, and continue dismantling and rolling back the progress we’ve made?

Make no mistake - Tuesday, equality is on the ballot in Virginia.