Politics

GOP governor invited LGBTQ leaders to a Pride Month event. He got accused of gaslighting instead.

Glenn Youngkin
Glenn YoungkinPhoto: Shutterstock

Thanks, but no thanks.

Leaders of Virginia’s LGBTQ community boycotted a last-minute Pride invitation from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) on Wednesday, calling it a “performative attempt to celebrate Virginia’s diverse LGBTQ+ community.”

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“The Governor spent months campaigning on a platform of homophobia and transphobia, attacking some of the most marginalized members of our community– transgender and non-binary youth,” said Narissa Rahaman, Executive Director of Equality Virginia Advocates. “His Pride event does not erase his words and only gaslights our community.”

Invitations to the reception were emailed on Monday afternoon to 33 recipients by Erik Conyers, an assistant in Youngkin’s office. The event was closed to the press and there is no record of it on his social media or the state’s website.

Defending the governor’s Pride outreach, Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter noted that in addition to the reception, Youngkin had spoken earlier in the day to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, a state panel.

Virginia Public Media reported that a virtual meeting of the panel was recently interrupted by people who posted “racist and homophobic messages and imagery.”

Lisa A. Turner, the Advisory Panel chair, said she asked that all LGBTQ members of the General Assembly be invited to Youngkin’s Pride reception but was told that wasn’t going to happen.

“He’s got to walk his talk, and it’s not there yet,” she said.

“I appreciate the Governor’s invitation, but I think it is premature for this administration to celebrate LGBTQ+ equality when it has yet to take any meaningful steps to advance it,” wrote James Millner, director of Virginia Pride, in a statement released Wednesday before the 5 p.m. event in the Capitol Rotunda.

Youngkin has been hostile or silent on LGBTQ issues since he entered politics in 2021 with his campaign for governor. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly denigrated transgender people, referred to trans girls as “biological males” while claiming “it’s just not fair” for them to participate in school sports, and was honored at a gala by an anti-LGBTQ group — which itself was supported by hate groups and Trump-affiliated organizations.

On the first day of Pride month in 2021, Youngkin supported a teacher who was suspended for refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns. Days before the election, he admitted that he is against same-sex marriage, although he pledged he “will support” that right when he is in office.

Once elected, Youngkin named several anti-LGBTQ conservatives to his transition team, and he’s been supportive of “religious freedom” bills introduced in the state legislature.

“Instead of hosting events and public professions of support for our communities, this administration must meet with LGBTQ+ leaders and advisory boards to hear our concerns and take clear and substantive actions to address them,” said Lindsay Church, Executive Director of Minority Veterans of America. “Until this happens, these events will be mere tokenization of members of our community in the name of political cover.”

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