Despite advocating for LGBT rights and legal protections, a Democratic candidate for state senate in Virginia believes that gay people should have their own bathrooms.
"I'm against people of different genders sharing bathrooms," current state delegate Joe Preston toldMetro Weekly May 29. "I actually think that gay people should have their own restrooms."
While Preston acknowledged that he "can't speak for" LGBT people, because he is "not part of that community," he still believes that gays and lesbians would feel "more comfortable" having their own restrooms. He told MetroWeekly that he'd be uncomfortable if a woman walked into a men's bathroom, so he assumed that it would be the same if a homosexual walked into a heterosexual bathroom.
Preston's remarks came in response to MetroWeekly's question about whether transgender students should be allowed to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. He took a biological essentialist position on the issue:
"At some point, their genitalia have to dictate who they are," Preston said.
Recent legislation presented by Republican lawmakers (and subsequently defeated) in Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, and Texas have centered on invasive ways to "verify" a student's gender before being allowed to use the restroom.
Trans advocates note that such efforts actually violate the Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which seeks to "avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices." The federal Department of Education recently affirmed that it interprets Title IX to include protections for transgender students.
Preston spoke with the LGBT outlet after his responses to a survey from the Virginia Christian Alliance, a "socially conservative Christian organization that espouses public policy in line with Biblical worldviews," according to Metro Weekly. In his reply to that questionnaire, Preston indicated that he supports nondiscrimination workplace protections for LGBT people. He also noted that he approves of employers offering spousal benefits for same-sex partners, and supports adoption by same-sex couples.
Preston, however, is "undecided" about whether Virginia's same-sex marriage ban should have been lifted, as it was earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state's appeal on a ruling overturning the ban. Same-sex couples have been legally marrying in Virginia since October.
He also believes that so-called conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, should be available if the client pursues it. The scientifically discredited practice, sometimes called "ex-gay" or "reparative" therapy, has been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every major mental health organization in the nation, and by President Obama and other top federal officials.
Efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors have been outlawed in California, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. Virginia considered a similar ban during the past legislative session, but the bill failed to pass out of an initial committee.
U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, recently made history by introducing the first nationwide bill to ban conversion therapy on LGBT people of any age nationwide, asking the Federal Trade Commission to categorize the debunked therapy as "fraud."
Preston's opponent, current state Sen. Rosalyn Dance, she said she's appalled at Preston's positions. "We are all striving together to ensure that LGBTQ individuals have the same opportunity, fairness and justice as the rest of us," Dance told MetroWeekly. "Now, he wants to segregate them by bathrooms. This seems a horrible throwback to 'separate, but equal.'"