LGBTQ question asked at first debate between Virginia candidates for governor; GLAAD urges media to hold candidates accountable

Early voting begins today in Virginia as the Commonwealth votes for a new governor. The two major party candidates, former Governor Terry McAuliffe and former CEO of The Carlyle Group, Glenn Youngkin, debated for the first time last night, at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, VA.

California voters rejected an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week. Virginia and New Jersey are next to vote on a chief executive, and Virginia could be a critical bellwether for pro-equality candidates and voters heading into the midterm elections in 2022.

309,000 LGBTQ people live in Virginia, 40% of whom are LGBTQ people of color.

GLAAD and Virginia Equality have compiled research on both candidates’ LGBTQ records and sent a letter to debate panelists and moderator urging them to ask about issues important to LGBTQ people.

Panelist and WTVR anchor Candace Burns asked (@45:55): “Right now school districts in Virginia are exploring how to address race and gender in schools. Mr. McAuliffe, Virginia passed a law last year to better protect transgender and nonbinary students and the Department of Education issued expanded policies for public schools to follow starting this year, but there has been backlash in Loudoun County teachers who disagree with rules filed a lawsuit against the school system. And some school boards have rejected or delayed adopting the state's policies altogether, after an outcry from parents. Should school board members who are elected by voters be allowed to make their own policies that best fit their communities without facing penalties?”

Terry McAuliffe answered: “I've always felt that school boards have the pulse of the local community, they should be making their decisions. I hate all of this divisiveness that is going on today. I hate to see our children being demonized today. I just really dislike it. You know, I'm talking about building this big new economy like I did before. I can't do it without the best education system in the country. And I remind everybody here, we are the number one state for business twice. In the last two years. We're the first state in America to get it. We are the number one state in America today for higher ed, we're number four in America today for K 12. Those are facts. We're doing great. But Candace, we need to make sure that we're taking it to the next level. I have a real plan, not one that's going to cut 43,000 teachers, I have a plan, $2 billion. What I'll do is raise teacher pay above the national average for the first time ever. I promise every student in Virginia, I'll have broadband to you within two years. I'll make sure we diversify our teacher base. But I want a school community that will love and respect one another. We're teaching the best education. I worked in a bipartisan way with these Republican legislators to make sure we were adding more science and math into our K through 12 courses, I worked in a bipartisan way.”

Glenn Youngkin was not asked about his previous statements opposing policies supporting transgender people and students. Research shows that trans and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.

“There are more than 300,000 LGBTQ Virginians, and the inclusion of transgender students in last night's gubernatorial debate is a necessary focus on the ugly attacks our community is facing across the country,” said GLAAD consultant and former GLAAD Vice President Zeke Stokes. “Issues impacting LGBTQ people in Virginia must remain a centerpiece of the media’s election coverage to hold the candidates accountable for their records and their rhetoric.”

GLAAD continues to call on media covering the campaigns to include questions to candidates on their LGBTQ records.

Additional research for reporters:

  • The Commonwealth Institute found that 40% of LGBT Virginians are people of color, a group that made up 72% of confirmed COVID-19 cases as of July last year. LGBTQ people of color face additional challenges such as lower incomes, lack of health coverage and paid leave. 32% of LGBTQ people of color in Virginia lost their jobs compared to 14% of white LGBTQ people and 13% of the general population.
  • Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Values Act into law last year, which added gender identity and sexual orientation to Virginia’s nondiscrimination law. In a recent interview, Mr. Youngkin said he would oppose “the radical transgender policies that have been signed by this governor.”
  • At least one transgender person has been killed in Virginia this year and the nation is on pace to set a new record for transgender violence. Virginia this year became the first Southern state to pass a ban on defendants using “gay or trans panic” to justify their violence.
  • A public school teacher in Loudoun County was suspended after refusing to use students’ authentic pronouns. Research shows using authentic pronouns reduces suicide risk.
  • Virginia allows taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to avoid ordinances designed to protect people from discrimination, and deny qualified LGBTQ couples from adopting or fostering a child. Currently there are 5,400 children awaiting foster care placement in Virginia. 26% of LGBTQ Virginians are raising children. Gov. McAuliffe has promised to repeal these exemptions.

Early voting in Virginia is open now through October 30th.

Check out other key dates and follow Equality Virginia.