LGBTQ Records of Candidates for Virginia Governor

By |
July 7, 2021

Virginia is one of two states to elect a governor in 2021, and could be a critical bellwether for pro-equality candidates and voters heading into the midterm elections in 2022.

LGBTQ voters turned out in record numbers and provided the winning edge in battleground states across the country in the 2020 election.

Equality Virginia, the leading LGBTQ advocacy organization in Virginia, and GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, are releasing research on the LGBTQ records of the two major party candidates for Governor of Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin.

McAuliffe served as governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Virginia law limits governor’s to one term of service but can run again nonconsecutively.

Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin is a former private equity executive and first-time candidate for public office.

Youngkin has been endorsed by several anti-LGBTQ politicians, most notably former President Donald Trump, who announced his support for the candidate ahead of the GOP primary. He has also been endorsed by Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Kevin Stitt, Rep. Bob Good, and Rep. Morgan Griffith.

In his brief time in public life, campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia, Youngkin has:

  • Refused to say whether he supports marriage equality, which was legalized nationwide six years ago
  • Said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity, on a radio interview with Trump supporter John Fredericks. (May 27, 2021)
  • Told a mother he is opposed to allowing transgender students to participate in sports in alignment with their true identity, claiming: “Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports. It's just not fair.”
  • Helped fuel Donald Trump’s “big lie” about so-called “election fraud” by refusing to say that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Youngkin’s first major policy proposal was the launch of an “Election Integrity Task Force.” Youngkin is calling for a number of changes, including requiring voters to show ID in order to cast a vote. Voter ID laws have been shown to disproportionately impact people of color, as well as the transgender community.   
  • Said during a Breitbart interview that he regretted that the civil rights organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was included in an initiative by the Carlyle Group—where he was co-CEO at the time—in which the company would match employee donations to select nonprofits following George Floyd’s death. Youngkin noted that he removed Black Lives Matter (BLM) from the list, and said leaving the SPLC on was an oversight and a mistake he wouldn’t repeat today. 
  • Expressed support for religious exemption laws that allow provide a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. He criticized a tweet by Gov. Terry McAuliffe—who vetoed anti-LGBTQ exemption laws in both 2016 and 2017—which condemned such laws and called to “expand protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians, not dismantle them.”
  • Pledged to use “every ounce of authority I have” if elected to “protect Virginians' First Amendment right to freely live out their faith.” Anti-LGBTQ activists have used religious beliefs to argue for the right to discriminate. Polls show 76% of Americans support laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, including support from Americans of all faith groups, ages and races. GLAAD research shows up to 91% of Americans believe it should be illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people. 70% of Americans oppose allowing religiously affiliated agencies receiving taxpayer funding to refuse to accept qualified same-sex couples seeking to adopt or foster a child.

    Former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s LGBTQ record includes:
  • Voicing opposition in 2009 to a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. McAuliffe also said he supported civil unions for same-sex couples, while arguing the state was unlikely to accept marriage equality. 
  • Supporting marriage equality during his second run for governor in 2013, pledging to sign a bill to legalize it in Virginia if one were to reach his desk. He also criticized his Republican opponent in that race, Ken Cuccinelli, for his anti-LGBTQ record, including his letter to state universities urging them to remove language from their non-discrimination policies offering protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Upon taking office in 2014, McAuliffe issued his first executive order as governor banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination against state workers.
  • That same year, in June, he became the state’s first governor to issue a proclamation for Pride month
  • Also that year, in October, McAuliffe ordered all state agencies to comply with legalized same-sex marriage in the state, became the first Virginia governor to officiate a same-sex wedding, and announced in a bulletin to the state’s Department of Social Services that same-sex couples could now legally adopt.  
  • McAuliffe launched a task force to promote LGBTQ tourism to Virginia, which, in 2016, resulted in a rebranding of the “Virginia is for Lovers” tourism slogan to the inclusive “Virginia is for all Lovers.”  
  • McAuliffe vetoed a religious exemption bill, SB 41, in 2016, that would have created a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
  • The following year, in 2017, McAuliffe vetoed two more so-called “religious freedom” bills that would have allowed for discrimination against the LGBTQ community: HB 2025 and SB 1324.
  • That same year, McAuliffe signed an executive order banning state contracts with firms that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • McAuliffe released an LGBTQ platform in April 2021 which includes a call to repeal the state’s so-called “conscience clause” that allows adoption and foster agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals if they have stated objections based on religious or moral grounds. Additionally, the platform calls for leveraging data collection to direct resources “to better support LGBTQ+ communities and effectively direct resources to end disparities,” improve enforcement of hate crime laws, address housing instability by investing in LGBTQ-inclusive shelters, and requiring health care and public safety professionals to take cultural competency training. 

GLAAD and Equality Virginia will continue to monitor the LGBTQ policies, rhetoric and statements from the two candidates for governor.