The following are excerpts from my column in the October, 2017, issue of VEER Magazine. (I write a monthly column) To read the full column (and many other timely columns, look for VEER on news stands now. across Hampton Roads. Here are the excerpts:
With Virginia's off year elections, LGBT Virginians find themselves confronted with crucial decisions at the ballot box every year. But this year may be more critical than most given the war against LGBT Americans being relentlessly waged by the Trump/Pence regime in Washington, D.C. On top of some of the already egregious measures - e.g., rolling back LGBT protections and intervening in a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to argue that existing federal civil rights laws do not apply to LGBT individuals - the Trump regime representative to the United Nations recently voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemns the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts. In voting against the resolution, the American delegation joined with Islamic countries such as Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. One way to create a firewall against such anti-LGBT animus is to elect LGBT allied candidates to the offices of Governor, Attorney General and Lt. Governor on November 7, 2017.
As has become increasingly the case, the allies to the LGBT community in Virginia among elected officials are almost without exception the Democrat candidates.
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR. My endorsement goes to Democrat, Ralph Northam. There are numerous reasons to endorse Democrat Ralph Northam over his challenger, former lobbyist Ed Gillespie, a/k/a "Enron Ed," but Dr. Northam's strong support for LGBT community and our civil rights, including our right to marry the person we love, certainly is a powerful factor. No American citizen should have to worry one election cycle to the next about whether or not their civil rights will be abrogated or restricted based on the results of the coming election, yet that is the reality faced by LGBT Virginians, especially given the offensive being waged against us by the Trump White House.
Just like the dishonesty and disingenuousness we see daily from the Trump/Pence regime, Ed Gillespie has tried to have it both ways and lied while speaking out of both sides of his mouth on LGBT rights and other issues. Late last month, desperate to secure the endorsement of the Northern Virginia Chamber, Gillespie privately promised to veto any anti-transgender bathroom that might come to him if he is elected governor. Not surprisingly, that privately made promise is directly opposite of the many promises Gillespie, like Trump, has made to the evangelical Christians who wield huge influence within the GOP base in Virginia. This Christian extremist influence is best embodied by The Family Foundation ("TFF"), a virulently anti-gay, anti-transgender organization that vigorously opposes any legal protections for LGBT Virginians and which, if given its way, would bring back the sodomy laws struck down in 2003 by the Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. Equally disturbing is Gillespie's repeated promises to Christian right extremists about his dedication to protecting their "religious freedom." Sadly, this religious freedom ruse has become the standard Republican double speak which means Gillespie will protect the right of Christofascists' to discriminate against others based on real or claimed "religious belief." Stated another way, Gillespie supports license to discriminate laws veiled behind a smoke screen of "protecting religious freedom." As icing on the cake, Gillespie believes in "traditional marriage" and is no fan or supporter of same sex marriage.
In sharp contrast to each of Gillespie's positions, Ralph Northam has consistently supported LGBT rights initiatives, ran for the office of Lt. Governor on a platform that openly supported same sex marriage, and believes that real or feigned religious belief should not be a license to discriminate against or mistreat other citizens, be it in the form of refusing service to LGBT customers or refusing them housing. No one should be exempt from the scope of non-discrimination laws.
If Gillespie's embrace of the larger GOP anti-LGBT rights agenda isn't enough to cause you to vote for Ralph Northam, then one should consider Gillespie's dangerous positions on health care, gun control and or fiscal responsibility. . . . . Gillespie promises a 10% across the board tax cut if elected. This tax cut would cause well over a $1.3 billion budget deficit for Virginia according to reports published by the Washington Post. On his campaign website Gillespie claims that this would equate to a $1,300 tax cut to a family of four. Like most GOP projections this claim does not seem to match mathematical reality. My husband and I with our two wage earner incomes and CPA generated returns would see nowhere near this large of a cut in our annual state taxes. One can only wonder what Gillespie considers to be a "typical family.” By my calculation it would mean only those families making over perhaps approximately $200,000+ per year would realize the tax cut Gillespie promises. The very wealthy would be the big winners.
On gun control, Ralph Northam is again the better candidate. With America still reeling from the mass murder in Las Vegas earlier this month and the Pulse night club massacre still in the minds of many in the LGBT community, it is important to be aware of Ed Gillespie's opposition to sensible gun control laws. In fact, earlier this year, Gillespie (and GOP Attorney General candidate John Adams) bragged about his top ratings from the NRA. In sharp contrast to Gillespie, Ralph Northam received an "F" rating from the NRA, an organization that is little more than a front for gun manufacturers. As a former military physician, Northam knows all too well what automatic weapons can do to the human body in the wrong hands and supports both a ban on the sale of assault weapons and other common sense legislation to reduce the carnage from gun violence. Remember those ratings when you vote in November and vote for Ralph Northam (and Mark Herring who is similarly disliked by the NRA).
On healthcare, Gillespie is a supporter of the failed Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and despite promises to the contrary sees no problem with thousands of Virginians losing health insurance coverage.
OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL: My endorsement goes to Democrat, Mark Herring. Since taking office in January, 2014, Mark Herring has been a steadfast supporter of the constitutional rights of all Virginians, including LGBT Virginians, as evidenced by his refusal to defend Virginia's unconstitutional ban on same sex marriage, a ban based on far right religious belief rather than the concept of equal protection under the law. Similarly, Herring has opposed Republican efforts to employ voter ID laws to disenfranchise minority voters. Herring's opponent, John Adams hypocritically whines that Herring has allowed "politics" to influence his actions as Attorney General, yet Adams, if elected, would bring back a religious right and white supremacist political agenda not seen since Ken Cuccinelli left office. Adams would do all in his power reverse the McAuliffe/Northam/Herring effort to "make sure that Virginia is business-friendly and welcoming to all."
Demonstrating Herring's effectiveness over the last almost four years, in endorsing Herring, the “General Herring has ably served the Commonwealth, just as he did serving Northern Virginia in the Senate and Loudoun County on the Board of Supervisors,” . . . . “He has a record of leadership on a host of key business issues important to the Northern Virginia Chamber, including his unwavering support for the landmark HB2313 transportation plan, and his commitment to modernize Virginia’s regulatory framework to prepare the Commonwealth for the emerging technologies that will lead private sector growth in the 21st century.”
Adams' attacks on Herring simply are not true and ultimately reflect his own bias against equality for all Virginians, those who are LGBT in particular. Adams supports a ban on same-sex marriage and has stated that "“I have a religious faith that tells me that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. That’s what I believe.” As the Washington Post this past summer noted, Adams even longs for a Trump packed Supreme Court that can reverse the 2015 ruling in Obergefell. He also supports voter ID laws that have little or nothing to do with perverting voter fraud, but which instead, are aimed at stopping "those people" from voting, so draw your own conclusions as to whether the label "racist" applies to Adams.
Like Ed Gillespie, Adams is also very big on "religious freedom" laws and the myth that American Christians are being persecuted. Adams' vision of religious freedom does NOT include religious freedom for gays, Muslims, Hindus or other non-Christians despite his dishonest posturing that he would represent all Virginians. And yes, he supported the toxic Hobby Lobby decision (he worked on the case for free of charge Hobby Lobby when it opposed contraception coverage in health care plans). It goes without saying that Adams counts as friends and endorsers a veritable who's who of right extreme wing Republicans. Vote for Mark Herring on November 7, 2017.
OFFICE OF LLIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: My endorsement goes to Democrat Justin Fairfax. Justin Fairfax, the Democrat candidate, tracks the positions of Ralph Northam and Mark Herring: expand healthcare coverage to poor and working class families, common sense gun control laws, increased efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay and policies to address climate change and rising sea levels. He also backs common sense women's reproductive rights policies, equal pay for equal work, and marriage equality and non-discrimination protections for hard working LGBT Virginians. Fairfax opposes Republican efforts to dismantle America's healthcare laws and leave hundreds of thousands of Virginians without health care coverage.
Similar contrasts exist between Fairfax, and Republican, Jill Vogel, as note in the other statewide races. Like Adams, Vogel is an extremist and was the sponsor of one of the bills (SB484) during the McDonnell governorship that would have forced women seeking abortions to undergo forced invasive trans-vaginal ultra sounds. This effort subjected Virginia to national and international ridicule and proved that Vogel is no moderate despite the deceptive effort on her campaign website. A review of Vogel's "issues" are a warmed over version of those of Gillespie and Adams and appear aimed at deceiving voters from realizing her true right wing, reverse Robin Hood agenda, best embodied by Gillespie's tax cut promise that will disproportionately reward the very wealthy while bankrupting Virginia.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 underscores the dangers of not voting and the danger posed by Republican government control of all branches of government. We cannot allow a similar disaster to happen in Virginia.