Thursday October 6th, 2022 7:49PM

To some surprise, Youngkin hosts series of Pride events

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — When Republican Glenn Youngkin was running to be Virginia's governor, he defended a teacher suspended over an objection to using students' preferred pronouns. He opposed transgender children playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity, and he indicated a personal objection to same-sex marriage.

Given those positions, it generated some bipartisan surprise in Richmond this week when he hosted a reception celebrating Pride month at the Virginia Capitol.

The event astonished and angered many LGBTQ advocates, who called the festivities hypocritical and chose not to attend. But Youngkin's supporters held up the event as an example of the conservative governor living up to a central campaign promise to serve as a unifier who cares for all his constituents.

“I think this demonstration of outreach, of genuine communication is reflective of why he was elected," said Michael Berlucchi, a city councilman from Virginia Beach, Republican and member of the state's LGBTQ+ Advisory Board who attended the reception.

Youngkin, a former private equity executive, became the first Republican in almost a decade to occupy the governor's mansion in this blue-leaning state after defeating former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a costly, high-profile race last year.

Openly religious — he once helped found a church in his basement and often opens meetings in prayer — Youngkin essentially avoided the issue of gay marriage on the campaign trail, declining to say in one interview whether he supported it. The Associated Press pressed him again in October, and he indicated that while he did not personally support same-sex marriage, it was “legally acceptable” and he would “support that.” He also emphasized that his faith calls him "to love everyone.”

Lisa Turner, who serves on the LGBTQ+ Advisory Board with Berlucchi and chairs the group created to advise the governor, said the Youngkin administration has been less than engaged with its efforts so far and took issue with how Pride month was handled.

Turner said she asked the administration for a Pride month proclamation — a ceremonial recognition that's standard for other heritage months. It didn't happen. She also said she was initially told by an administration liaison that there would be no Pride month programming and that perhaps the group should convene somewhere other than Richmond for a meeting that also happened to be on Wednesday. She wasn't informed of the reception — which she opted not to attend — until a week prior, she said.

However, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said the June events were planned well in advance.

“The Governor is committed to leading on behalf of all Virginians. We are one Virginia and engagements help strengthen our communities and the spirit of Virginia,” she said in a statement.

Berlucchi said about 50 people attended the reception in the Capitol rotunda, smaller than similar events during the past two Democratic administrations. The reception was closed to the press, typical for such events, but the administration also took the step of closing the public building entirely at the time.

Several of the state's leading LGBTQ advocacy groups issued a joint news release condemning what they called the governor's “hypocrisy” in hosting the event.

“I was shocked. I was disappointed. I was slightly amused,” Narissa Rahaman, executive director of Equality Virginia Advocates, said of her reaction to learning that the event would take place. Rahaman said she was not extended an invitation.

James Millner, director of Virginia Pride, said in a statement that he was invited but would not attend.

“I appreciate the Governor’s invitation, but I think it is premature for this administration to celebrate LGBTQ+ equality when it has yet to take any meaningful steps to advance it,” Millner said.

Meanwhile, Victoria Cobb, president of the conservative Family Foundation of Virginia — which opposes same-sex marriage — stopped short of criticizing Youngkin.

“The Governor should meet with citizen groups to discuss their concerns but given that nothing less than total capitulation to the LGBT agenda will appease these groups, this seems like a distraction,” she said in a statement.

Veteran political analyst Bob Holsworth said he couldn’t recall a similar Pride commemoration by another Republican administration. But he noted that public opinion on the issue has shifted since Virginia last had a GOP chief executive.

Youngkin also hosted a luncheon at the governor's mansion this month with members of the LGBTQ community and attended a roundtable Thursday hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative LGBTQ advocacy group whose endorsement he touted during his campaign.

Casey Flores, president of the group's newly organized Richmond chapter and an attendee of the luncheon, said he had no problem with a governor maintaining a faith-based opposition to homosexuality, and he criticized the backlash to this week's events.

“The Democrat Party and the people on the left, the left-leaning organizations, they all lambaste Republicans for not embracing the gay community. And then when one does, they lambaste and they lose their minds,” he said.

No LGBTQ state lawmakers were extended an invitation to Wednesday's reception, according to Turner.

Democratic Del. Danica Roem, who is transgender, equated the event to sending LGBTQ constituents “thoughts and prayers.”

Roem was particularly disappointed that the governor's office was publicly silent earlier this year on a legislative push blocked by House Republicans to remove a defunct provision prohibiting gay marriage from the state constitution. It's a matter of urgency, she said, at a time when some advocates increasingly fear the right of same-sex couples to marry could someday be stripped away by the Supreme Court.

Turner wondered if what seemed like a last-minute jostling to schedule a few Pride events was a response to a recent virtual attack against her group, when an online meeting was flooded with racist and homophobic messages and imagery, according to VPM News. She noted that Youngkin made an appearance at the group's Wednesday meeting, where he condemned the harassment, but said she thinks the administration could do far more to advocate for Virginia's LGBTQ community.

“Just having a Pride event is not as significant as actually putting in the footwork to make sure that the community has protections,” she said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
To some surprise, Youngkin hosts series of Pride events
Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin hosted a series of events this week marking Pride month
3:44PM ( 5 minutes ago )
US inflation at new 40-year high as price increases spread
The prices of gas, food and most other goods and services jumped in May, raising inflation to a new four-decade high and giving American households no respite from rising costs
3:43PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Judge blocks Texas investigating families of trans youth
A Texas judge has temporarily blocked the state from investigating families of transgender children who have received gender confirming care
3:37PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
March for Our Lives returns with a renewed gun control push
Angered by the unrelenting toll from gun violence, tens of thousands of people are expected at rallies this weekend in the nation’s capital and around the United States demanding that Congress pass meaningful changes to gun laws
3:10PM ( 40 minutes ago )
US lifts COVID-19 test requirement for international travel
The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the U.S. take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights
3:03PM ( 46 minutes ago )
Biden, leaders reach migration pact despite attendance flap
President Joe Biden and other Western Hemisphere leaders are set to announce what is being billed as a roadmap for countries to host large numbers of migrants and refugees
3:02PM ( 47 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Capitol riot panel blames Trump for 1/6 'attempted coup'
A House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has firmly laid blame on former President Donald Trump
10:41AM ( 5 hours ago )
Small businesses are facing ‘summer of uncertainty’
Small businesses that depend on outdoor crowds and free-spending tourists aren’t sure what to expect this summer
10:06AM ( 5 hours ago )
Takeaways: 'Carnage' at the Capitol and a case against Trump
Audiences watching the first public hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan_ 6, 2021, Capitol riot saw one injured officer who slipped in blood and spoke of “carnage.”
8:36AM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Tribeca 'documusical' casts Rudy Giuliani's arc as opera
A new documentary about Rudy Giuliani premiering at the Tribeca Festival weaves in musical performances to give the ups and downs of the man once commonly referred to as “America's Mayor” a touch of opera
1:46PM ( 2 hours ago )
National groups flooding local prosecutor races with money
Big political donations this year in races for local district attorney's offices show how national groups are seeking to influence those contests in at least a handful of states
9:39AM ( 6 hours ago )
Biden, Bolsonaro hold 1st meeting amid election worries
President Joe Biden and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have met for the very first time
9:55PM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Elections
Oz wins Pa. Senate primary ahead of showdown with Fetterman
Dr. Mehmet Oz has won Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Senate primary after a dayslong recount
7:35PM ( 1 day ago )
US House races in California could shape future of Congress
U.S. House battles are taking shape that could tip the balance of power in Congress
2:46PM ( 2 days ago )
Congressional races in California could tip balance of power
U.S. House battles are taking shape that could tip the balance of power in Congress
1:53PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
US inflation at new 40-year high as price increases spread
The prices of gas, food and most other goods and services jumped in May, raising inflation to a new four-decade high and giving American households no respite from rising costs
3:43PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Judge blocks Texas investigating families of trans youth
A Texas judge has temporarily blocked the state from investigating families of transgender children who have received gender confirming care
3:37PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Jack Del Rio fined $100K for comments about Capitol riot
Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has been fined $100,000 by the team for his comments about protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol
3:34PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Jan. 6 hearings remind some voters of Watergate, Iran-Contra
Bucks County, a suburb near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has an ample supply of swing voters — they've sent Republicans and Democrats to Congress
3:32PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Biden vows to battle inflation as prices keep climbing
Inflation keeps getting the better of the U.S. economy — and of President Joe Biden's administration
3:32PM ( 18 minutes ago )