A conservative group is running online ads attacking Virginia Del. Danica Roem ahead of the Nov. 5 election, emphasizing her gender identity and accusing her of promoting an “extreme social agenda.”
The Facebook ad is paid for by Family Foundation Action, an arm of the Family Foundation of Virginia, a conservative advocacy group that exercises enormous influence over the Virginia General Assembly and has repeatedly encouraged the Republican-led House of Delegates and Senate to kill bills promoting or recognizing LGBTQ rights.
The ad, featuring a picture of Roem, claims that the first-term delegate “sponsored a bill to force all insurance companies to pay for harmful and unnecessary ‘gender transition’ surgeries,” and urges voters to reject her “extreme social agenda.”
While Roem has spoken supportively of ensuring insurance companies cover any medically necessary care for transgender individuals, she was not the chief patron of a bill that would have barred insurance companies from discriminating against transgender individuals.
Instead, that bill was patroned by Del. Debra Rodman (D-Henrico), who is now running for the Virginia Senate, and co-patroned by Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond).
Part of that is by design, as Roem, who became the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature in 2017, did not want to be stereotyped as only concerned with LGBTQ issues.
Instead, she’s focused her efforts on advocating for the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, government transparency, First Amendment issues, school lunch programs, and transportation solutions — including her ongoing fight to introduce traffic-calming measures on Northern Virginia’s heavily congested Route 28.
Roem’s Republican opponent, Kelly McGinn, has strong ties to the Family Foundation, speaking at one of their press conferences earlier this year to demonstrate her opposition to passing the Equal Rights Amendment on the grounds that it is unnecessary due to the social progress women have enjoyed since the Amendment was first introduced nearly four decades ago, and would lead to an overabundance of lawsuits as people sue when they believe they have been discriminated against based on sex.
McGinn also has a long history of opposing equality for LGBTQ people. She has decried the Equal Rights Amendment’s prohibition of discrimination “on account of sex” because it does not specifically refer to biological women and could potentially allow transgender individuals to bring lawsuits alleging they are the victims of sex discrimination.
McGinn has also opposed marriage equality in Virginia, even signing a letter comparing it to the slave trade, has spoken out against granting nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and called LGBTQ adoption a “social experiment” in 2011 when advocating for Virginia’s “conscience clause exemption” law, which allows child placement agencies to discriminate against prospective parents based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and marital status.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Roem’s re-election bid, has denounced the Family Foundation’s ad and demanded an apology from McGinn, the beneficiary of the ad.
“Throughout this campaign, Kelly McGinn was careful to hide from voters her years of advocacy for anti-LGBTQ and anti-women causes,” Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston and president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “But with desperation kicking in less than a week before Election Day, McGinn is abandoning a debate on how to best serve Virginians and is instead attempting to weaponize bigotry for her own political gain.
“McGinn is Virginia’s Donald Trump: willing to use divisiveness to create fractures in her community so she can advance her own self-interests,” Parker added. “Meanwhile, Danica refused to use personal attacks and is instead running on the issues that will best improve her constituents’ lives. These attacks will backfire.”
This isn’t the first time Roem has been attacked for her gender identity. Following a debate between Roem and McGinn, the Prince William GOP tweeted that McGinn had urged voters to send “more moms” to Richmond.
The party’s official account then tweeted, during Roem’s closing statement, “Danica closes the debate claiming to be a mom. Is there a new definition for that term as well?”
Roem, who has spoken openly about being a stepmother on the campaign trial, tweeted in response: “Either @PWCGOP is blatantly transphobic or they don’t recognize step-moms as moms.” She called on supporters to help her raise $10,000 in response, adding: “Bless their bigoted hearts, I eat transphobia for breakfast.”