(Blue Virginia welcomes diaries from progressive candidates and elected officials on the issues we all care about. Promotion of these diaries does not imply endorsement of any candidacy. – promoted by lowkell)
When I decided to enter this race, one of the motivators was the fact that LGBT individuals and families in the Commonwealth are treated as second class citizens. Since I have been out knocking on doors and speaking to people throughout this district, I’ve heard so many personal stories about the effects of these discriminatory laws on LGBT citizens, on their allies, and on the families of this district. Although we all play a part in moving Virginia forward, elected officials have an important responsibility to keep the dialogue going about people who are being treated unequally. I am proud to be an out ally of the LGBT community. I’m proud not only to support but also be an active member of groups such as Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Democrats of Virginia and Virginia Partisans, and the Arlington Young Democrats LGBT Caucus. I hope I will have the opportunity to serve the community as an out ally in Richmond working on one of the most critical issues we face today.
One of the first initiatives I will take on is introducing legislation to end discrimination against LGBT students at the Virginia Military Institute and other state institutions where students can still be legally discriminated against based on sexual orientation. We must end overt discrimination and more subtle discriminatory practices such as the bullying of our youth, which frequently goes undetected despite its equally devastating impact. We must stand up to our Attorney General who refuses to allow our universities to protect their own students. We have support for Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Arlington schools, but in the rest of the state we must do more to increase those dialogues. We must work with organizations such as GLSEN and SMYAL who are already doing great work to help our youth. While we are lucky to have these groups and volunteers generously providing time and resources to the cause, I look forward to the day when kids are accepted by their parents and peers regardless of real or perceived orientation.
Everyone should be judged on who they are as a person, not on who they love. LGBT citizens must be added as a protected class to our state anti-discrimination code. I also support the fully inclusive federal legislation. Coming out is a personal decision, but a supportive environment allows one to be a better worker. LGBT individuals already face discrimination in not being able to provide benefits to their partners; the possible loss of a job is a heavy burden that should be removed. I fully support the state bills introduced in the past by fellow pro-equality Democrats such as Senator Don McEachin and Delegate Adam Ebbin and would introduce any legislation necessary to accomplish the goals of ending workplace discrimination in hiring and firing. Further, I will support legislation that will authorize local governments to provide health and other benefits to the domestic partners of employees.
Repeal the Marriage Amendment
We must repeal the Marshall-Newman Amendment and move forward with full marriage equality. While I recognize the priority of non-discrimination legislation, I will be proud to put my name to the repeal every time it is introduced. Some say that in ten years we will look back on the lack of marriage equality and see it as an embarrassment, but I say that this is an embarrassment right now and always has been. Our Commonwealth cannot be last again, we should not wait for another Loving v. Virginia. We cannot wait 10 years and we must not wait for the courts to tell us what we already know: discriminating against our own citizens is just plain wrong.
The best interests of the child must always come first. Every child should have the opportunity for a loving home regardless of the gender and marital status of the parent or parents. Parents should not have to undergo an expensive and uncertain process to be the legal parents of a child they might have held from his or her very birth. It is inhumane to deny children the families who want them and have the love to give to them. The implications of this discrimination go beyond LGBT communities to straight couples and others families. In today’s society families come in all forms. Imagine the tragedy of a child who loses his or her parents and then is unable to be adopted by two loving Aunts. I vow to change this law and will put my heart and all my effort into ensuring that our Commonwealth secures the rights and benefits of our laws for all our families.
Building a Coalition of Support
While it goes without saying that we must work with our fellow Democrats to secure support on these issues, these are not, and should not be treated as partisan. We must work across the aisle to build up additional Republican support for these bills. We need to talk about how these issues affect families. By talking about the real people behind these issues, we can move the conversation beyond political lines. I will reach out and do those one on one meetings and build support for these critical changes. I will work with anyone and everyone to get these changes passed, regardless of partisan leanings and ideology, and I will back the necessary federal legislation that supports our state efforts.
Further, it is worth noting the importance of leading by example – being an out ally and encouraging others to come out (whether LGBT or an ally). The more we connect these stories with the real people behind them, the larger impact we will have. We all must talk about these issues.
Leading the Way
Finally, It is not enough to just vote “no” on discriminatory bills when they come up or “yes” on progressive bills that are sure to fail because the groundwork for success has not been laid. As an elected official, I would make it my responsibility to articulate a platform, execute a strategy, and lead the charge. I am the candidate that will make sure the 49th district leads the charge toward equality.
Please follow my campaign at facebook.com/StephanieClifford.Virginia and @cliffordforva on Twitter as we continue to tackle these and the other most important issues facing our great Commonwealth. Please also watch my website www.stephanieclifford.org for my answers to the Virginia Partisans – LGBT Democrats of VA PAC candidate questionnaire.