For the second year in a row, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors has declared June 2019 LGBTQ+ Pride Month. But the split vote underscored political divisions on the board ahead of the upcoming November elections.
More than 20 speakers came to the podium during the board’s afternoon meeting Tuesday, June 18, to express their support for a resolution declaring June 2019 “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and More Pride Month” and to urge supervisors to do the same. No one spoke against the resolution and it ultimately passed in a 5-to-3 vote.
Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, introduced the measure. It saw support from nearly the same bipartisan mix of supervisors who voted in favor of it last year. They included Supervisors Maureen Caddigan, R-Potomac, Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, and Marty Nohe, R-Coles as well as Supervisor Victor Angry, D-Neabsco. Angry wasn’t on the board last year, but his predecessor, the late Supervisor John Jenkins, also voted in favor of the LGBTQ+ Pride Month resolution in 2018.
Voting against the resolution were Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, as well as Supervisors Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan, and Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville.
Stewart has declined to run for re-election this fall. But both Anderson and Lawson have Democratic opponents in the Nov. 5 election, and both spoke in favor of the Pride Month resolution during citizens’ time.
Kenny Boddye, the Democratic nominee challenging Anderson in the November race, said there are moral, public safety and economic reasons to support the resolution. Boddye noted the high rates of self-harm and suicide among the LGBTQ community and cited the need for communities to “fully embrace them.”
Boddye also said the resolution “shows we are open for business for everyone … that we’re an inclusive community and we’re open to all.”
Maggie Hansford, a Prince William County speech teacher and the Democratic nominee challenging in Lawson in the fall, said voting in favor of the resolution “is the right thing to do.”
“Our children, our families our business community – everyone -- benefits from inclusion and the acceptance of everyone,” Hansford said.
Other Democratic candidates for the supervisors’ seats released statements in favor of the proclamation or sent representatives to speak in their stead.
Organizers urged supporters to show up for the meeting after noting the resolution was listed in the “supervisors’ time” portion of the meeting and not on the “consent agenda,” where items are usually approved without debate. That move caused organizer Evelyn BruMar and others to fear the resolution faced an uphill fight.
Stewart acknowledged Wednesday that he alone decided where the resolution would appear on the agenda.
“The consent agenda is for items that are not expected to be controversial,” Stewart said. “The appropriate place for the resolution was supervisors’ time.”
Anderson said she had no role in where the item appeared on the agenda.
“I had nothing to do with it,” she said Wednesday. “No one asked me for my opinion and I didn’t offer it.”
Neither Stewart nor Anderson commented on the resolution before voting against it. The same was true of all of the supervisors; there was no discussion either for or against the measure before the vote.
When asked about the vote Wednesday, Stewart said he doesn’t believe it’s the government’s role “to celebrate, condone or otherwise judge someone’s sexual orientation,” which was the same explanation he gave for voting against the measure in 2018.
Anderson said she believes the measure was unnecessary given that the supervisors also approved a more general resolution calling Prince William County a “hate-free, bigot-free” zone.
“I think there are so many things we could vote on that are very specific to various groups of people,” Anderson said. “I didn’t see any merit or any real usefulness” to the resolution.
During the meeting, several speakers said declaring June LGBTQ+ Pride Month is meant to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, considered the start of the LGBTQ civil rights movement, and affirms that LGBTQ individuals are accepted and welcome.
Some noted that federal civil rights laws, like those in Virginia, offer no protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and that LGBTQ Pride Month resolutions are a way to draw attention to that fact.
“I’m upset that I have to be here again so we can debate the worth of my life; so we can debate my wife’s life, or my adopted child’s life,” said Evelyn BruMar, a Brentsville resident and advocate for the LGBTQ community, during her time at the podium. “This should be an automatic, easy pass. If you support protecting foster children, civil rights issues, equal access to voting and even access to health care, just the basics … the LGBTQ community should be no different. We are in every one of those demographic groups.”
Jim O’Connor, president of Equality Prince William, said the LGBTQ community “wants no special treatment” other than to be treated like everyone else.
“But that doesn’t always happen, so that’s why we need to make June LGBTQ Pride month,” O’Connor said.
Still, both Anderson and Stewart said they don’t agree with that line of thinking.
“I do understand it,” Anderson said of their arguments, “but I don’t think this resolution would fix that.”
“I don’t go for that,” Stewart said. “Obviously, people have been persecuted for many different reasons.”
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