The Republican nominee for governor of Virginia has said Democrats are 'waging a cultural war' on LGBTQ rights 'and the victims are our children.'
Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee in the Virginia governor's race, spent Saturday night at an event hosted by an anti-LGBTQ political group based in Virginia.
The gala was hosted by the Family Foundation, a Richmond, Virginia-based group with a long history of anti-LGBTQ activism. Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press secretary, was a keynote speaker at the event.
Youngkin's association with the organization comes after the release of Youngkin digital ad taking the side of two women who attended a Fairfax County School Board meeting on Sept. 23 to complain about public school libraries carrying "LGBTQ-themed books" and "promoting books that graphically depict homosexual acts."
"I am here to protest the use of Fairfax taxpayers' money in a campaign to normalize homoerotic material with minors," Adrienne Henzel, one of the women featured in the Youngkin campaign ad, told the school board.
She added that the pro-LGBTQ library books were part of a larger "indoctrination effort."
In March, the Family Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging a Virginia state policy that aims to make schools more trans-inclusive by allowing trans students to use names, pronouns, and facilities that correspond with their gender. A circuit court judge dismissed the lawsuit in July.
The group has also opposed marriage equality and has expressed support for "conversion therapy," the harmful practice that operates under the falsity that LGBTQ people can be forced to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Sept. 29, the organization posted on its website that "school boards across the state have become the epicenter for parents opposed to teachings incorporating the core tenets of 'Critical Race Theory' and LGBTQ+ ideology." It highlighted an exchange between Youngkin and McAuliffe during a gubernatorial debate on Sept. 28 where the moderator questioned McAuliffe on how he believes schools should implement these policies.
The Family Foundation event Youngkin attended listed the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group, as one of its sponsoring organizations.
The organization has a long history of opposing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people through its legal work. The Alliance Defending Freedom is also one of a few anti-LGBTQ national groups that has pushed for a slew of anti-trans bills this year, including bans against transgender youth playing on the sports team of their gender.
In a gubernatorial debate last week, Youngkin claimed that public schools in Virginia have refused to "engage with parents" who were "so upset because there was such sexually explicit material in the library that they had never seen."
Youngkin has also spoken out against transgender equality during the course of the campaign.
"Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls' sports. It's just not fair," Youngkin told a voter in March.
In June, Youngkin defended a teacher, Tanner Cross, who refused to use a transgender student's correct pronouns in the classroom.
"What we're seeing right here, right now in Loudoun County is the liberal left waging a cultural war and the victims are our children," Youngkin said at the time.
On Sept. 29, Youngkin shared a campaign ad featuring parts of their exchange on education and video from the Fairfax County School Board meeting held on Sept. 23. Two speakers said they thought that two books, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, which were found in the district's high school libraries were inappropriate for students. The books were subsequently pulled from the shelves.
"Are you a parent who wants to have a say in your child's education? Too bad. Terry McAuliffe says you have to sit down and shut up," Youngkin's campaign tweeted alongside the video.
Evison has said the claims that his book described pedophilia are patently false. The Lawn Boy author said he started receiving death threats last month, after a Texas woman spoke out against his book at another school board meeting.
"If I had a statement, it would be 'Read the book or sit down,'" Evison told the Washington Post. "I feel like these people are frightened because they’re losing the culture wars."
Kobabe's book is full of LGBTQ themes, and includes depictions of sexual acts both real and imagined. The American Library Association recently honored Kobabe's book on a shortlist of books "that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18."
The speakers who criticized the two books were Henzel and Stacy Langton.
Langton has appeared on Sebastian Gorka's podcast, America First, to discuss the issue further. She called the books "pornography" and "pedophilia," and insisted her opposition to the books is not about gender identity or sexual orientation.
Henzel was one of several people quoted in a Fairfax Times story about opposition to a Drag Queen Story Hour event in Virginia that took place in July. One of the attendants said he and his children were harassed outside the event.
"I am not aware of any incident that remotely corresponds with Mr. Singh’s version of events," Henzel responded. "If he’s referring to the ladies praying the Rosary, then that’s just funny."
McAuliffe, for his part, has slammed Youngkin for refusing to support LGBTQ students in Virginia.
"People who want to demonize children — I just don't understand," McAuliffe said at last week's debate. "I want every child in Virginia to get a quality education."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.