Metro Weekly

A Progressive Pushes Back

Karen Gautney hopes to become the first lesbian elected to the Virginia General Assembly

Gautney cites recent GOP-backed bills to require voters to show special identification, mandate specific medical procedures for women seeking abortions, and to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against gay people who wish to adopt. She sees it all as an ”anti-woman, anti-gay” agenda being pushed in Richmond. She warns it may get worse.

Gautney says she fully expects bills that will harm workers’ rights and target immigrants to be introduced during the 2013 legislative session. She also believes that Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), particularly if he is not named Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, may take more extreme positions to bolster himself for a future run for higher political office, possibly the presidency.

Although McDonnell has not yet called for a special election to replace Englin, in order to schedule the special election on the same day as the 2012 presidential election, results from a primary election would have to be certified by Aug. 17.

That means Gautney, who was endorsed for the seat by Englin, has only a few weeks to introduce herself to voters. In the meantime, she faces Rob Krupicka, a three-term Alexandria City Council member with name recognition. Krupicka previously ran for State Senate against Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax Co.), the only out gay Virginia state legislator.

Although Gautney says she’s been received warmly by voters as she makes the rounds, comments on some local websites have dismissed her as a ”one-issue” candidate focused on gay rights.

”Comments like that have been used to marginalize minorities for generations,” she says. ”With candidates of color, for example, it’s not uncommon to say that’s all they’re about. For women candidates, it’s not uncommon to say they’re only about women’s issues. I am not surprised to hear that they would use that to condescend about an openly lesbian person as well. But they are wrong.”

”It is true that my life and my perspective as a lesbian is integral to who I am, and how I think, and how I approach issues,” she continues. ”But that doesn’t mean that’s the only issue I can consider. I have taken bold, progressive positions on a number of issues, including transportation, the economy, environment, health care.”

Gautney says she hopes that by serving in the House of Delegates, she will provide an ”antidote” to the myths about LGBT people pushed by delegates such as Bob Marshall (R-Manassas).

”There aren’t people like me in Richmond,” Gautney says of the challenges she faces. ”We have a number of advocates there, who are straight, male members. But Richmond has never seen a delegate like me.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at