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Danica Roem Is First Out Trans Person Reelected to a State Legislature

Danica Roem

Danica Roem has made history again.

The first out transgender person to serve in a state legislature, having been elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, Democrat Roem Tuesday became the first one to win reelection to a state lawmaking body. In addition to her victory, four other LGBTQ candidates, all Democrats, were reelected to the Virginia legislature — three in the House of Delegates, one in the Senate — helping to flip both chambers to Democratic control. This gives the party a trifecta in Virginia state government, as the state already has a Democratic governor, who did not have to run for reelection this year, and makes it likely that Virginia will finally enact an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law. 

Roem captured 57 percent of the vote to beat anti-LGBTQ Republican opponent Kelly McGinn in northern Virginia’s 13th House District, The New York Times reports. In 2017, Roem had unseated one of the chamber’s most homophobic and transphobic members, Bob Marshall.

“In 2017, Danica wrote the playbook on how transgender candidates can defeat anti-LGBTQ opponents through authenticity and attention to everyday issues — and her reelection victory sets it in stone,” said Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, in a press release. Victory Fund had invested heavily in Roem’s campaign. “Voters did not head to the polls to make history, yet they proved trans candidates can win battleground races in battleground states despite transphobic attacks from opponents. Danica inspired trans people across the nation to run for office. Her reelection proves that political revolution is a lasting transformation — not an aberration.”

Roem had been the subject of a transphobic ad released just days before the election by Family Foundation Action, a right-wing group with ties to McGinn, and McGinn herself has expressed many anti-LGBTQ views. The race was considered a bellwether for whether Virginia is trending Democratic or Republican as the 2020 presidential election approaches, according to Victory Fund.

Roem tweeted thanks to her supporters:

Several other progressive groups applauded Roem’s win as well. “Danica Roem earned reelection tonight because she ran on a strong message about infrastructure and the Equal Rights Amendment, and because her constituents already knew her as a tireless advocate for them in Richmond,” said a statement issued by Liz Ocampo, political director for People for the American Way and director of its Latinos Vote! program. “She won in spite of repeated transphobic attacks by her opponent, which should send a clear message to the GOP that bigotry is not a winning strategy. We are very proud to have supported Danica through our PFAW Next Up Victory Fund and know she will continue to accomplish great things for Virginians.”

Praise also came from Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David in the following statement: “Throughout her tenure in the House of Delegates, Roem has remained focused on the needs of her constituents, despite hateful and divisive attacks from anti-LGBTQ groups and her opponents. From expanding Medicaid and providing health care to 400,000 Virginians to improving Route 28, Delegate Roem has been an effective leader in Richmond — and she isn’t finished yet. For these reasons and more, the Human Rights Campaign is proud to have helped her fight for reelection and is proud to stand alongside her each and every step of her awe-inspiring journey.” 

Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, added that Roem’s “historic victory is a meaningful affirmation that transgender Americans belong in every aspect of public life — at work, in our armed forces, and in elected office.”

The reelection of Dawn Adams, a lesbian, to the Virginia House was also key to the the Democrats winning a majority there, according to Victory Fund. Like Roem, she had been heavily targeted by Republicans. Mark Levine and Mark Sickles, two gay men in the House, won reelection in relatively safe districts, as did Adam Ebbin, a gay state senator.

With the Democrats controlling both chambers, it's likely that Virginia will finally add sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination law. Republican leaders in the House and Senate had refused to allow a vote on legislation that would accomplish this. “We look forward to working with the new majority to ensure these critically important protections are finally passed into law,” HRC's David said.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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