The general election for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general of Virginia is scheduled for Nov. 2, 2021.
Three candidates with records of opposition to equal rights for LGBTQ people have won Republican primaries in Virginia for statewide office.
Glenn Youngkin won the Republican nomination for governor of the state, while Del. Jason Miyares won the nomination to run for attorney general and former Del. Winsome Sears was selected to run for lieutenant governor.
The general election for the three positions is scheduled for Nov. 2 of this year.
The Republican primary winners have histories of revealing statements about and actions toward LGBTQ people, ranging from refusing to vote for nondiscrimination protections to misgendering trans people.
Youngkin, a former private equity executive, has received an endorsement from Donald Trump and has mostly focused on arguing that his experience in business will benefit the economy. But he has drifted from that message on the campaign trail to attack transgender youth who want to play sports on the team of their gender.
In March, he told a voter during a meet-and-greet event, "Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports. It's just not fair."
In a post on his campaign website, Youngkin criticizes the state's former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, currently the frontrunner in his attempt once again to secure the Democratic nomination for the position, for his stance on religious exemptions to laws. Youngkin told Tucker Carlson in a May 5 segment, "Terry McAuliffe agrees with Joe Biden that in fact these amendments to our Constitution are not absolute. He even said recently that religious exemptions should not be the basis for laws."
It's unclear which comment Youngkin was referring to, but Republicans have often used "religious freedom" as a pretext for allowing discrimination against LGBTQ and other people.
In 2016, as governor, McAuliffe vetoed a Virginia bill that would have allowed businesses and individuals to deny goods and services to LGBTQ.
The polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight notes that Republicans could succeed in some of these races due to possible voter backlash against President Joe Biden, pointing out that between 1977 to 2017, only once, in 2013, did the party that occupied the White House win the Virginia governor's race.
Miyares, the GOP nominee for attorney general, has a long record of opposing LGBTQ rights. According to Equality Virginia's 2020 legislative scorecard, he voted against a ban on conversion therapy, safeguards for transgender students in schools, local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, nonbinary gender markers on Virginia driver's licenses, and the Virginia Values Act, enacted last year, which prohibits anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and public accommodations.
Miyares opposed some of the protections in 2018 as well and said he was concerned about religious freedom issues.
Vee Lamneck, the executive director of Equality Virginia, told the American Independent Foundation that Miyares' record is concerning.
"If elected, Miyares would oversee the Office of Civil Rights, which does not bode well for LGBTQ Virginians since he actually voted against the Virginia Values Act in 2020. Virginians have made clear that they want LGBTQ-affirming leaders in the executive branch, which is proven by the fact that since 2009, only LGBTQ-affirming candidates have been successful in winning these statewide races," Lamneck said.
Sears, meanwhile, is running for lieutenant governor after being largely absent from politics in the state since the mid-2000s, the Washington Post reported. The business owner spent a single term after she was elected to the state House in 2001, later losing a race to unseat Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott in Virginia's 3rd Congressional District.
In a 2004 article published by the Daily Press in Newport News, Sears wrote of marriage equality, "I emphatically support a constitutional amendment preserving the institution of marriage to be between a man and a woman. Marriage has been defined over the last 5,000 years as being exactly that." She said that her constituents do not want Virginia and other states to recognize queer people's marriages.
She also wrote, "I also believe our society has gone immeasurably beyond almost all standards in accommodating the homosexual community over the last couple of decades."
Sears has been endorsed by James Dobson, according to the Human Rights Campaign, Sears has been endorsed by James Dobson, the evangelical Christian founder of organization Focus on the Family, which has long opposed LGBTQ equality. She has also been endorsed by Don Blake, the president of the Virginia Christian Alliance.
In an April 2021, Virginia Christian Alliance's website published a post about LGBTQ people that read, "They have now joined forces with other gender perverts by referring to themselves as 'lgbtq'- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. They seem to be hiding from their previous designations- sodomites, 'unmentionables', homosexuals and gays and have adopted 'queer' as a coverall."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.