From the Human Rights Campaign:
Youngkin Weaponizes Anti-Equality Messaging & Misinformation At Election Eve Rally In Virginia
RICHMOND, VA —Tonight, Glenn Youngkin is holding a so-called “Parents Matter” rally in Loudoun County in an attempt to perpetuate misinformation and incite an anti-equality culture war on the eve of the Virginia election. In the final weeks of the campaign, Youngkin has employed anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, including opposition to marriage equality, a belief that transgender young people should not participate in sports consistent with their gender identity and the use of widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation as central campaign themes.
Glenn Youngkin has been endorsed by Donald Trump, who has touted his close ties to Youngkin as the election nears, trying to drum up support amongst his base for the anti-equality candidate by saying “we get along very well together and strongly believe in many of the same policies.” Youngkin is employing many of the same misinformation tactics familiar to Trump’s own style of politics.
Backlash To Youngkin’s Opposition To Marriage Equality
One week before the election, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hosted a panel of LGBTQ+ Virginians, including the lead plaintiffs in the historic Virginia marriage equality case, Carol Schall and Mary Townley. The group responded to comments made by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin publicly opposing marriage equality. Youngkin’s position runs counter to the values of a vast majority of Virginians, including a majority of Independents and Republicans who support marriage equality. Youngkin’s statement threatens to make Virginia a far less safe and welcoming place for families.
“What worries me about a potential Governor Youngkin is that he wouldn’t care about our families, he would simply tolerate our families,” said Carol Schall, an LGBTQ+ Virginia voter and a plaintiff in the historic case for marriage equality in Virginia in Tuesday’s press conference. “It really scares me to my bones, it makes my hair stand up on edge to think that I might have a governor that doesn’t consider me his constituent — that doesn’t consider our family important, that weighs his family as more important than our little family. We pay our taxes, we work hard, we raised a child who’s now in graduate school who we’re very proud of and who’s dependent on us to be legally recognized as her family, and the fact that we might have a Youngkin administration that would work against that progress really scares me. Our family is built on love: love for each other and love for our community. When we pay our taxes, we’re supporting our community. We’re supporting the teachers, the PTA, the firefighters, the first responders, the police officers who work to make our community safe. We’re speaking today because we believe in community and we believe that everyone has value.”
Last Saturday, former President Barack Obama panned Youngkin’s position at a rally in support of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s campaign, saying “Are we still arguing about gay marriage? Really? I thought that ship had sailed…I thought that was pretty clearly the right thing to do.”
Youngkin Strongly Backed By Anti-Equality Forces
Across recent elections, one of the key anti-equality groups working to upend decades of LGBTQ+ progress has been the American Principles Project (APP). APP and its chief underwriter Sam Fieler have invested millions of dollars in support of anti-LGBTQ+ candidates — a roster that includes Glenn Youngkin. In Virginia, APP spent at least $300,000 on digital advertising in support of the Youngkin campaign.
Restoration PAC, run and funded by major anti-LGBTQ+ bankroller Dick Uihlein, spent at least $1.9 million in advertising across Virginia in support of Youngkin and donated $942,000 to the political arm of anti-abortion group Women Speak Out Virginia.
Anti-equality group Free to Learn Action launched a $1 million ad campaign spreading widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation in support of Youngkin’s campaign.
Weaponizing Loudoun County Anti-Transgender Misinformation
Tonight’s rally is the latest example of Youngkin leaning into anti-trans rhetoric, and using misinformation about recent incidents in Loudoun County that has been perpetuated by right-wing media in an effort to distract and divide voters.
Youngkin has seized upon a Loudoun County sexual assault case and incorrectly tied it to transgender bathroom policies. The issue is not just that Youngkin is employing anti-trans rhetoric, it’s that he and others have the facts entirely wrong here. Youngkin and the right wing media’s framing has been widely debunked. The trans-inclusive policy that some claim allowed this assault to take place was not in effect, and laws already make any assault illegal. Beyond that, the gender identity of the assailant is not confirmed and the assailant was charged in a second assault that took place in an empty classroom.
This hasn’t stopped Youngkin and others from trying to rally parents against trans-inclusive policies in Loudoun County and elsewhere across the state, presumably to seize upon what they believe is a salient political issue at the expense of transgender children in Virginia.
Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point
Legislators in a record 33 states have introduced more than 130 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. Fourteen states have enacted bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they’re legislating against.
Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself. This is in large part because transgender young people are among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America, and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing misogynistic and sexist tropes about gender roles.
Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric is already having a damaging impact, with LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from the Texas state website, 11-year old kids literally having trouble sleeping, schools district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent’s complaint. 2020 was the deadliest year on record for trans & gender non-conforming people, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking 44 violent deaths, and 2021 is on track to surpass last year’s total.
The full endorsement slate and Virginia LGBTQ+ Day of Action continues the Human Rights Campaign’s multi-year investment to mobilize the Commonwealth’s 1.2 million Equality Voters. In 2020, the HRC’s long-term efforts in Virginia culminated in the passage of the landmark bipartisan Virginia Values Act, making Virginia the first state in the South to enact nondiscrimination protections along the lines of sexual orientation and gender identity.