The leader of a top Virginia LGBTQ+ rights group boycotted a pride event Gov. Glenn Youngkin hosted on Wednesday because of the governor’s opposition to gay marriage and other issues.
“I appreciate the Governor’s invitation, but I think it is premature for this administration to celebrate LGBTQ+ equality when it has yet to take any meaningful steps to advance it,” James Millner, director of Virginia Pride, said in a written statement Wednesday before the 5 p.m. event in the Capitol Rotunda.
“I have serious concerns about the Governor’s on-the-record positions on issues like same-sex marriage and rights and protections for the transgender community, especially transgender youth. If the Governor can demonstrate that he and his administration are true allies to our community by working with us to protect and advance our hard-won progress, I would happily attend a celebration with him next year.”
The Youngkin administration invited some LGBTQ+ people and leaders to the Pride Month celebration, where Youngkin mingled with guests over drinks and appetizers. The governor’s office closed the event to the press.
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Asked about the criticism, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter noted that Youngkin had spoken earlier in the day to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, a state panel. Virginia Public Media reported that a virtual meeting of the panel was recently interrupted by people who posted “racist and homophobic messages and imagery.”
“The governor wants to lead for all Virginians and in his remarks this morning to the board, condemned individuals that disrupted their advisory board meeting recently with racist symbols,” Porter said by email.
The governor also faced criticism from Equality Virginia, the state’s top LGBTQ+ group.
“The Governor spent months campaigning on a platform of homophobia and transphobia, attacking some of the most marginalized members of our community – transgender and non-binary youth,” said Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia Advocates, in a statement. “We encourage the Governor to meet with us, hear our stories, learn about our lives, and make a commitment to fight for our lived equality.”
A news release from Equality Virginia singled out Youngkin declining to support same-sex marriage (the federal law of the land since 2015), his support for “religious freedom” bills the LGBTQ+ community says result in discrimination, his opposition to transgender children playing school sports on a team whose gender they identify with, and his support for a high-school teacher who would not call students by their preferred pronouns.
Lisa A. Turner, chair of the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, said members of the community were first invited to Youngkin’s pride event on Monday. She said she asked that all LGBTQ+ members of the General Assembly be invited, but was told that wasn’t going to happen.
“He’s got to walk his talk, and it’s not there yet,” she said.
Millner, with Virginia Pride, said in an interview that he doesn’t want to be hostile to the Youngkin administration, but the governor has opposed many of the rights and protections the LGBTQ+ community has fought for. He said he knew of other invitees to the Capitol celebration who opted not to go.
“I would love the governor to do nothing but prove every one of us wrong,” he said.