Politics

Out lawmaker & marriage activist Mark Levine is running for Virginia Lieutenant Governor

Mark Levine, gay, lieutenant, governor
Photo: Mark Levine campaign website

Gay Virginia state Delegate Mark Levine, currently running for lieutenant governor, has spent his life fighting for progressive change – and winning. 

“I’m always fired up,” he told LGBTQ Nation. “There’s a lot of injustice in the world. I’ve got a lot to do.”

Related: Georgia Rep. Park Cannon is a queer “activist elected official” getting it done in the South

Levine, who is currently serving his sixth year in the Virginia legislature, has the potential to become the first out gay lieutenant Governor in any of the 50 states, as well as the first out gay man elected to statewide office in Virginia. 

“There’s no doubt that representation matters,” said Levine, a longtime LGBTQ activist who is considered a pioneer in the marriage equality movement. 

He brings solid advocacy credentials to the job. Levine co-founded Marriage Equality California and helped launch the Valentine’s Day Marriage Protests, an act of civil disobedience that caught on nationwide. He also co-wrote Washington D.C.’s marriage equality law.

While he is not running just to break these barriers, he does strongly believe that visibility is power. 

“I would argue the single most transformative thing any of us in the rainbow community did is come out of the closet,” he said. “When we were hidden, we were in danger… The more people thought they didn’t know us, the more likely they were to take away our rights and discriminate against us. Visibility for our community has been the key to our success.”

If he wins, Levine hopes to completely transform the lieutenant governor position, which is currently a part-time job that consists of two months presiding over the Senate. 

He hopes to make the role full-time. 

“Lieutenant governor is the only office holder in all of Virginia that is both the legislative and executive branches,” he said, “so it’s a great problem solving place where we can help people who need legislation and people who need executive action.”

He hopes to do what he learned as an activist and what he has continued to do as a delegate: speak directly to those in need to find out what needs to change. Thus, he has pledged to visit all of Virginia’s 133 counties to speak with residents about how he can help improve their lives.

Among other issues, Levine hopes to tackle the school-to-prison pipeline, raising the minimum wage, increasing broadband access, increasing paid family medical leave, and combatting laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. 

“There’s a lot of inequality,” he said. “Income inequality, gender inequality, racial inequality. There’s absolutely inequality for the rainbow community…It’s all about giving people an equal chance.”

Levine has a long history of getting things done.

The first law he ever wrote passed unanimously. Moved to activism after the tragic murder of his sister by her husband, Levine lobbied the Tennessee legislature to pass stricter laws protecting the victims of domestic violence and their children. Doing so helped Levine’s parents win custody of his niece and nephew after his sister was killed. 

Since then, his work to protect domestic violence survivors has continued.

 

As a Virginia delegate, Levine is known for forming the Virginia Transparency Caucus, which led to the live streaming and archiving of all Virginia General Assembly committee proceedings and votes so all is accessible to the public. 

Creative problem solving, he has learned, is key to public service. 

“I’ve done a lot of very proud problem solving outside the legislature. Because sometimes the best creative ideas don’t have legislative solutions, like me getting a federal grant for 24/7 sexual assault nurse examiners, so someone who is sexually assaulted in the middle of the night can get help.”

Levine hasn’t been sleeping much these days, as he is currently running two races at once. In the midst of his Lieutenant Governor campaign, he is also vying to keep his delegate seat, which he will resign if he ends up winning both.

“I want to serve Virginia in any capacity I can,” he said. 

The Democratic primary takes place on June 8. The Republicans have already nominated Winsome Sears, an extreme pro-Trump conservative who is anti-choice, anti-gun control, and wants to impose stricter voting laws in Virginia, including requiring photo IDs at the polls.

Levine wants voters to know that he wears his heart on his sleeve, that he is direct and honest and expresses the same feelings in public that he does in private. 

“If people want the experience, know-how, and cleverness of an insider,” he said, “with the passion and drive and fight to stop injustice of an outsider, then they should vote for me.”

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