As Loudoun lands again in national headlines over a backlash to protections for transgender students in the schools, the county’s other governing board has passed a resolution marking the work of some of the people working for equality.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors’ proclamation recognizing June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month spotlights the advocacy work of Maha Majdoub and Antonio Maradiaga, owners of Twinpanzee Brewing Company, and Charlotte McConnell and other members of Equality Loudoun. Twinpanzee hosts an annual Pride Party, and McConnell is credited with helping relaunch Equality Loudoun in 2017.
“To not support this resolution is a blatant refusal to adapt to changing culture and dehumanizes our neighbors, and to argue against affirming the rights and the existence and the work of the LGBT community,” Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian) said during the June 15 board meeting. “It goes also against our vision that we adopted as a board and as a county, that we will strive to be an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable community at where residents feel free to live, work, learn and play.”
Loudoun has been in national news as some Loudouners and national conservative political groups have descended on the county to protest two equity initiatives: addressing structural racism in schools, and developing new state-mandated protections for transgender students.
The ceremonial resolution did not pass unanimously.
Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) said he would not support the resolution because of a passage in the Board of Supervisors Rules of Order, which holds that “due to the nature and purpose of Board Resolutions, they should not be controversial, and it is preferable that all resolutions be approved by a unanimous vote from the dais.”
Instead, Kershner voted against the resolution and Supervisors Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) left the dais before the vote. Kershner, Buffington and Letourneau also did not sign the resolution.
“I think the most individuals would agree that all humans should be treated equally, not because of their sexuality, because they are humans and because they are fellow Americans,” Kershner said. “But thousands of people in Loudoun County and across the United States would not agree, or would certainly find this resolution controversial, especially those people of faith who have different views on sexuality.”
Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) pointed the long history of using biblical passages to justify discrimination.
“When I was going through helicopter training in Ogden, UT, in 1974, there was a big issue in Salt Lake City and Ogden that the local Boy Scouts would not allow a Black boy scout to join the Boy Scout troop,” Turner recalled. “And the reason was biblical, apparently. There was some link back to Cain and Abel that that they were not equal and therefore should not be allowed to join.” He also recalled the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military during his U.S. Air Force service.
“If we try really hard, we can always find segments of our society to ostracize and hold up as different than the rest of us,” Turner said. This resolution simply recognizes and respects the LGBTQ community here in Loudoun County as a vibrant and important element of our community, just like so many other groups in our community.”
He described the uproar over LGBTQ as overblown.
“This is a faux controversy by certain elements within our society, writ large across the nation, and it’s, like so many other faux controversies we have going on right now, it’s a stalking horse for other personal agendas and political agendas,” Turner said.
“These are families coming out in defense of their children, trying to make sure their children have the best life possible,” Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) said. “This is not a group forcing this on anybody. It’s families and individuals who just want to be treated equally and with dignity.”
“Sometimes I don’t know what to say when people have put their beliefs on a group of people and, just to try to put them in a corner, like they don’t exist, or they don’t want them to exist, or what they’re doing or how they live their lives is wrong,” Supervisor Sylvia R. Glass (D-Broad Run) said. “You know, I thought that we’ve come a long way.”
And County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) drew from her own faith—pointing to Sundays in church, Wednesdays in Bible study, Thursdays at deacon meetings, and Saturday mornings in choir practice.
“You do not want to go to the toe with the Bible with me,” Randall said.
She also recalled when a member of her family came out as gay in her twenties, after a life of dating men.
“She said, ‘Phyllis, I tried everything I could try to not be gay. I didn’t want to be gay. I don’t want to be gay, and I tried because I know my large Christian family, it would be hard for you all,’ she said. ‘But no matter what I do, no matter who I date, no matter how much I pray about it, I’m gay.’”
“This is not a choice. If it was a choice, I know one young lady who would not have made that choice,” Randall said.
“Religious freedom in America means that we all have a right to our religious beliefs, but this does not give us the right to use our religion to discriminate against and impose those beliefs on others who do not share them,” Briskman said.
After the resolution passed, it was presented to members of Equality Loudoun.
“We are all worthy of respect and love and dignity, and it is not a choice, so Equality Loudoun is going to continue to persevere,” McConnell said. “And my freedom of speech in saying these are my pronouns, that should be respected, because if a gym teacher called my child stupid, I would have something to say about it, so it’s just as offensive when you misgender a student.”