To some surprise, Youngkin is hosting a series of Pride events
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — When Republican Glenn Youngkin was running for governor of Virginia, he defended a suspended teacher over an objection to the use of students’ favorite pronouns. He opposed transgender children playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity, and he indicated a personal objection to same-sex marriage.
Given those positions, it generated a bipartisan surprise in Richmond this week when he hosted a reception celebrating Pride Month at the Virginia Capitol.
The event surprised and angered many LGBTQ advocates, who called the festivities hypocritical and chose not to attend. But Youngkin’s supporters held up the event as an example of the Conservative governor living up to a central campaign promise to serve as a unifier who cares about all of his constituents.
“I think this display of awareness, of genuine communication speaks to why he was elected,” said Michael Berlucchi, Virginia Beach City Councilman, Republican and a member of the state’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Council who attended. the reception.
Youngkin, a former private equity executive, became the first Republican in nearly a decade to occupy the governor’s mansion in the blue-leaning state after beating former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe in a costly and very publicized last year.
Openly religious — he once helped start a church in his basement and often opens prayer meetings — Youngkin essentially avoided the issue of same-sex marriage during the campaign trail, declining to say in an interview whether he supported it. The Associated Press pressed him again in October, and he said that while he didn’t personally support same-sex marriage, it was “legally acceptable” and that he would “support it.” He also pointed out that his faith calls him “to love everyone.”
Lisa Turner, who sits on the LGBTQ+ advisory council with Berlucchi and chairs the group created to advise the governor, said the Youngkin administration has so far been less committed to its efforts and challenged how the month of pride was managed.
Turner said she asked the administration for a Pride Month proclamation — a ceremonial recognition that is standard for other heritage months. This does not happen. She also said she was initially told by an administration liaison that there would be no Pride Month programming and that the group might have to meet somewhere other than Richmond for a meeting which would also have taken place on Wednesday. She was only told about the reception – which she chose not to attend – a week before, she said.
However, Youngkin’s spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said the June events were planned well in advance.
“The Governor is committed to leading on behalf of all Virginians. We are One Virginia and the commitments help strengthen our communities and the spirit of Virginia,” she said in a statement.
Berlucchi said about 50 people attended the reception in the Capitol rotunda, smaller than similar events in the past two Democratic administrations. The reception was closed to the press, typical for such events, but the administration also made the decision to close the public building entirely at the time.
Several of the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy groups issued a joint press release condemning what they called the governor’s “hypocrisy” in organizing the event.
“I was shocked. I was disappointed. I was mildly amused,” Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia Advocates, said of her reaction to learning the event would take place. Rahaman said she did not receive an invitation.
James Millner, director of Virginia Pride, said in a statement that he had been invited but would not attend.
“I appreciate the governor’s invitation, but I think it’s premature for this administration to celebrate LGBTQ+ equality when it has yet to take meaningful steps to advance it,” Millner said.
Meanwhile, Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia – which opposes same-sex marriage – refrained from criticizing Youngkin.
“The governor should be meeting with groups of citizens to discuss their concerns, but given that nothing less than a total capitulation to the LGBT agenda will appease those groups, it seems like a distraction,” she said in a statement.
Veteran political analyst Bob Holsworth said he did not recall a similar commemoration of Pride by any other Republican administration. But he noted that public opinion on the issue has changed since Virginia last had a GOP chief executive.
Youngkin also hosted a luncheon at the governor’s mansion this month with members of the LGBTQ community and attended a Thursday roundtable hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ advocacy group whose endorsement he has touted for a while. his campaign.
Casey Flores, president of the group’s new Richmond chapter and luncheon attendee, said he had no problem with a governor maintaining denominational opposition to homosexuality, and he criticized the backlash to this week’s events .
“The Democratic Party and the people on the left, the organizations on the left, they castigate all Republicans for not embracing the gay community. And then when you do, they castigate and they lose their minds,” he said. .
No LGBTQ state lawmakers received an invitation to Wednesday’s reception, according to Turner.
Democratic Congresswoman Danica Roem, who is transgender, likened the event to sending “thoughts and prayers” to LGBTQ voters.
Roem was especially disappointed that the governor’s office was publicly silent earlier this year on a legislative push blocked by House Republicans to remove an outdated provision banning same-sex marriage from the state constitution. It’s a matter of urgency, she said, at a time when some advocates are growing concerned that the right of same-sex couples to marry could one day be struck down by the Supreme Court.
Turner wondered if what appeared to be a last-minute scramble to schedule a few Pride events was a response to a recent virtual attack on his group, when an online meeting was flooded with racist and homophobic messages and images. , according to VPM News. She noted that Youngkin made an appearance at the group’s meeting on Wednesday, where he condemned the harassment, but said she believed the administration could do much more to stand up for Virginia’s LGBTQ community.
“Just having a Pride event is not as important as doing what is necessary to ensure the community has protections,” she said.