A Virginia Republican congressional candidate is facing intense criticism for embracing anti-transgender tropes and his opposition to LGBTQ rights more generally, even sparking a protest outside the spot of a planned campaign event.
Bob Good, a former athletic department official at Liberty University who describes himself as a “biblical conservative and constitutional conservative,” is the Republican nominee in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Recently, his campaign has been trying to rally clergy members around the commonwealth by holding a series of “Virginia Liberty Summits for Pastors” in three cities.
At those meetings, Good’s campaign has signaled its intent to talk about the Virginia Values Act, a newly passed state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which Good has characterized as an attack on religious freedom.
“Religious liberty in America is under assault like never before,” an Eventbrite posting for a scheduled Tuesday summit in Charlottesville, reads. “Failure to act in its defense is concession, and if we fail to act religious freedom in America will be lost, not just for our generation, but for the next.”
An invitation to one of the summits, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, read: “Bob Good, candidate for Congress, is interested in preserving religious liberties as defined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He is extremely concerned about the recent changes that now affect both large and small churches.”
The invitations, which were sent to clergy members and Republican county officials in the district, also invoked the well-worn “bathroom panic” trope that allowing transgender people to access public accommodations will lead to assaults or harassment of cisgender women or children in restrooms.
“What happens when a male member of your congregation goes on vacation and returns four weeks later as a female?” the invitation read. “What do your church bylaws state regarding a man dressed as a woman who attends a church function and expects to use the women’s restroom?”
The invitation was signed by Travis Witt, a former Virginia Tea Party official who is identified as the Faith Coalition leader for Good’s campaign. The subject heading for the emailed invitation reads: “Re: when a man becomes a woman.”
Good previously won the Republican nomination in a drive-by convention in June, unseating incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman in the process. Prior to the convention, Good had attacked Riggleman, who adopts a more libertarian view on social issues, for being insufficiently conservative, citing, in part, his decision to officiate the wedding of two gay campaign volunteers.
In addition to touting his opposition to marriage equality on his website, which Good notes is part of the Republican Party’s official platform — which he argues Riggleman promised to defend when he was first elected — Good has also published a letter from supporters on his website that states, “Homosexuality is a very complex subject that medical science has confirmed is psychological moreso than genetic.”
When Good served on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors in 2015, he signed a resolution declaring the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage equality “lawless,” and voted for another in 2016 that urged state and federal governments not to recognize gender identity as a protected class, and to either pass legislation, or allow the county to pass its own, that would bar transgender people from public restrooms that don’t match their gender identity.
Even thought the 5th District generally leans six points more Republican than the nation as a whole, Democrats in Washington believe Good’s social conservatism may be a detriment, particularly in a presidential year when Democratic turnout, especially in the southern parts of the district, which contain high numbers of Black voters, is expected to be higher than usual.
Following the primary victory of Democratic nominee Cameron Webb, a physician who teaches at the University of Virginia, which is in the district, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Webb to its list of “Red to Blue” program candidates — a designation usually reserved for Democrats who have a strong chance of flipping Republican-held seats.
The Virginia Democratic Party blasted Good’s invitation to the summit, trying to cast him as extreme.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic that has infected over 100,00 Virginians and a recession that has put millions across the country out of work, but all Bob Good wants to focus on is same-sex marriages,” Grant Fox, a spokesman for the Virginia Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Virginians need help, and Bob Good is spending his time convening church officials to figure out how to best discriminate against the LGBTQ community.”
The Good campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Virginia also did not respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday, protesters lined up across the street from the church where Good’s Charlottesville summit was to be held, holding Pride flags and signs expressing support for the LGBTQ community and criticizing Good’s stance on LGBTQ issues, according to Charlottesville-area NBC affiliate WVIR. Good ended up not showing up at the church.
“We’re here to oppose Bob Good’s bigotry today and he’s chickened out on facing us,” David Singerman, an organizer of the protest affiliated with Indivisible Charlottesville, said. “He’s also chickened out on debating his opponent, so that tells you something about where Bob Good stands on things like moral courage.”
The 5th District Republican Committee, however, says that Good did not cancel or back out of the event due to the presence of protesters. Rather, the committee says, Good chose to merge the Charlottesville event with another summit taking place in the town of Madison later in the day.
But Indivisible members say they want their Good to hear their message: that they don’t appreciate him using the LGBTQ community as political fodder.
“We don’t want homophobes and bigots in the 5th District of Virginia,” activist Kathryn Laughon told WVIR. “We want our elected officials to represent everyone and that includes the queer community.”
Reality star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner is claiming that, during her unsuccessful run for California governor, Republican party leaders refused to be appear alongside her in public, despite supporting her in private.
"I had elected officials and party leaders who would gladly take private meetings with my campaign team and me, but would balk at the mere notion of being seen publicly with me," Jenner wrote in a recent USA Today column.
"To a point, I understand they have to protect themselves from their voters and the base who might not be as open-minded as they are," Jenner wrote, noting that the problem "for someone like myself" is "partly generational."
Two Republican members of Congress attacked Dr. Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary of health, following her being sworn in as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
On Tuesday, Levine became the first out transgender officer in all eight of the uniformed services, and the first female four-star officer in the PHSCC. In that role, Levine will lead a team of more than 6,000 officers in responding to public health crises and natural disasters.
Following her promotion to admiral, Levine's historic accomplishment was praised by LGBTQ advocates as a milestone for the transgender community. But she was criticized by conservatives due to her gender identity, with many disputing the notion that she is a woman.
The Biden administration has approved a request by Colorado officials to modify their state's health exchange under the Affordable Care Act to require private health insurers to cover transition-related care for transgender patients.
The change, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, would mark the first time the federal government has approved a requirement for individual and small-group health plans to cover medical treatments for transgender patients. Colorado already requires its state Medicaid program to cover the costs of transition-related care for low-income residents.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, accompanied by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and other officials, announced the policy in Denver last week. Under the new policy, insurers will no longer be able to refuse to cover treatments that have been deemed medically necessary by a patient's medical provider by claiming such procedures are "elective" or "cosmetic."
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