Metro Weekly

Equality Virginia PAC and Pride Fund endorse Ralph Northam for governor

Lieutenant governor's voting record on LGBTQ rights and gun measures used to justify endorsements

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife – Photo: Equality Virginia.

Equality Virginia Advocates, the campaign arm of the commonwealth’s top LGBTQ organization, has endorsed Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s bid for governor, citing his record of supporting pro-LGBTQ legislation.

In a conference call on Tuesday, Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish painted Northam as a longtime ally with a “steadfast commitment” to the commonwealth’s LGBTQ community and a “shared vision of Virginia that is free from discrimination.”

Northam, who faces former Congressman Tom Perriello (D-Va.) in the Democratic primary, served as a state senator representing parts of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Virginia’s Eastern Shore prior to his election as lieutenant governor in 2013, where he compiled a pro-LGBTQ voting record. As a candidate, he endorsed marriage equality prior to its legalization in the commonwealth. And as lieutenant governor, Northam has used his tie-breaking vote to advance crucial legislation, including a bill prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination in public employment.  

Following Northam’s election, and with his tie-breaking vote, Democrats briefly gained control of the 40-seat Senate in early 2014 following a pair of special election victories to fill Northam’s old seat and the seat once held by Attorney General Mark Herring. But Republicans seized control just months later following another special election — lessening Northam’s power in cases where votes fell along party lines. This essentially doomed the chances of almost every piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the upper chamber until 2016, when a new class of more socially moderate or libertarian-leaning Republican freshmen were sworn in.

Nonetheless, Parrish painted Northam as a loyal ally to the LGBTQ community, pointing to his organization’s positive past dealings with Northam as justification for the endorsement, following a reporter’s question as to why the organization decided to endorse in a competitive primary.

“Equality is a Virginia value,” Northam said in a prepared statement. “That’s why I’ve been a committed partner to Equality Virginia’s mission of making sure that every Virginian, no matter who you are, no matter who you love, feels welcome, safe, and free from discrimination in this commonwealth.”

Equality Virginia Advocates’ endorsement comes just one day after Northam received the endorsement of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a national group formed in the wake of last year’s massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that pushes for reforms to national and state gun laws.

As lieutenant governor, Northam cast the deciding vote on a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed firearms without a permit. As a state senator, he voted against allowing people to carry concealed weapons in establishments that serve alcohol, and against a law that would have allowed non-gun dealers to purchase multiple guns within a single 30-day period.

“Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam has been a consistent and strong advocate for commonsense gun safety laws and LGBTQ equality,” Jason Lindsay, the executive director of Pride Fund, said in a statement. “He supported marriage equality long before it became the politically correct thing to do, and he stood up to the NRA when it mattered most. Virginians deserve a Governor like Ralph Northam who will stand up for what’s right and keep all Virginians safe.”

For Democrats, the governor’s seat is a must-win race this November. Given the ridiculously gerrymandered state of districts for the House of Delegates, and the fact that the Republican-controlled Senate isn’t up for re-election until 2019, it is highly unlikely that Democrats will win the majority in either chamber.

As a result, a Democratic loss would mean the loss of a gubernatorial veto that Gov. Terry McAuliffe has wielded to block discriminatory legislation. Equality supporters could then be subjected to a flood of bills targeting the LGBTQ community for discrimination, which would likely be signed into effect by a Republican governor.

All three Republican gubernatorial candidates — Ed Gillespie, Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) and Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart — have expressed support for measures like a “religious freedom” bill allowing people to refuse goods or services to LGBTQ people and a proposed “bathroom bill” that mirrors laws in North Carolina and Texas restricting transgender people’s ability to access public restrooms and changing facilities.

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