The nation’s top LGBTQ organization is blasting Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin (R), who is running against former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) in November’s election, after Youngkin expressed his opposition to marriage equality.
Speaking with the Associated Press in a rare interview, Youngkin was asked whether his faith shapes his view of same-sex marriage.
Youngkin replied that he feels “called to love everyone.” When pressed about whether that statement was intended to signal support for same-sex marriage, Youngkin responded: “No.”
However, Youngkin added that same-sex unions were “legally acceptable” in Virginia, adding: “I, as governor, will support that.”
The AP noted that Youngkin often talks about his faith on the campaign trail, utilizing it as a cudgel to criticize Democrats — whether that means attacking Gov. Ralph Northam for allowing liquor stores to remain open but keeping churches closed in the early months of the pandemic, or railing against public education and local school boards for allowing lesson plans or library books in schools that touch on topics that don’t conform to a Biblical worldview.
That approach has helped Youngkin close the polling edge that McAuliffe enjoyed a few months ago, rallying Republican base voters who are apoplectic over topics that the national GOP has seized upon as election-year “wedge” issues, including the alleged teaching of critical race theory in schools, the rights of transgender students, pandemic-era restrictions, and “election integrity.”
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ organization whose political action arm has endorsed McAuliffe’s gubernatorial bid, blasted Youngkin’s stance on same-sex marriage and expressed concerns over his heated rhetoric over culture-war issues.
“Glenn Youngkin’s opposition to marriage equality is yet another example of how far outside the mainstream and out of touch Youngkin is — not just with a large majority of Virginians, but the majority of independents and Republicans who support marriage equality as well,” HRC Interim President Joni Madison said in a statement.
“His relentless anti-equality messaging as he closes out his campaign is proof that fundamental fairness and equality are at stake in this election.
“The choice facing Virginians could not be more stark between Terry McAuliffe, a champion for LGBTQ+ equality who will ensure every Virginian is treated equally, lives free from fear, and thrives, and Glenn Youngkin, an extremist whose opposition to marriage equality and threats to allow businesses to discriminate will make the Commonwealth far less welcoming,” Madison added.
Similarly, former President Barack Obama, a McAuliffe supporter, has attacked Youngkin’s comments on marriage equality, saying he thought the “ship had sailed” when it came to arguing about whether same-sex couples should have their marriages legally recognized.
Despite criticism from HRC, LGBTQ advocates and their political allies, Republicans in Virginia, including Youngkin, appear to believe their emphasis on schools — in particular concerns over curriculum content and transgender inclusion — has exposed a weakness of Democrats among suburban voters who nominally or in theory support LGBTQ rights but do not want topics like sexuality or gender identity broached or addressed, even in passing, in classrooms or in administrative policies.
Several Republican candidates for the General Assembly have previously been called out for their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) recently attempted to weaponize current AG Mark Herring’s support of marriage equality in an effort to bolster the campaign of Herring’s challenger, Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) while allowing Miyares to stay above the fray.
At the same time, the Democratic Attorneys General Association has attacked Miyares over the Cuccinelli interview, alleging that Miyares has been less than forthcoming about his stances on LGBTQ issues, which may be at odds with a majority of Virginians and Americans, based on recent polling.
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