This week’s newsletter highlights the start of Pride Month, National Gun Violence Prevention Day, and shares information about upcoming panel discussions in which I am involved. The newsletter also continues to provide information about the June Primary voting dates and shares highlights from community engagements from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read the newsletter and for staying informed.
Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Rights
This year’s Pride Month feels much different from the celebrations of the past several years. This year’s Pride events are scarred by the trends that we have seen increasing across the country. Whereas recent years have been celebrations of progress in achievements of equality, human rights, and justice, this year has been witness to increasing assaults on the LGBTQ+ community. These assaults are deadly in the forms that they are taking: they are being crafted into legislation, signed into law, and implemented as legally permissible bigotry.
All across the country, we have seen regressive attacks on gender affirming health care, the criminalization of drag performances, restrictions on discussions related to the LGBTQ+ community, and threats to marriage equality. Many of these items of legislation were also introduced in Virginia during the past two Sessions, and they will undoubtedly be reintroduced and expanded upon in the upcoming Session. The trends that we have seen in some states have emboldened those who wish to scapegoat and demonize particular groups of people within our communities.
The history of bigotry and vilification of LGBTQ+ people is long and disturbing. It is only in recent memory that we have seen progress in the movements towards equality and a fundamental recognition of human rights. Just a few decades ago, people could be, and in fact were, imprisoned for the “crime” of homosexuality.
Now, we see families bewildered by the rapid regression of basic human rights in some states. They are trying to determine which states might be safe for their children and for themselves. They are being forced to uproot from communities they love, from homes they have established, and from careers they value.
Virginia cannot follow the trends we are seeing in states such as Florida, Alabama, Texas, and others. Our inclusive values and our commitment to the richness of diversity must carry us beyond this disturbing and bleak point in history. For this June’s Pride Month, I hope that we will all rededicate ourselves to standing up against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry.
National Gun Violence Prevention Day
Today, June 2, is National Gun Violence Prevention Day, also known as Wear Orange Day. This commemoration began in the wake of the death of high schooler Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago just a few weeks after performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2013. This commemoration has since turned into a day of gun violence prevention activism.
The uniquely American epidemic of gun violence has tragically impacted the lives of millions of children and families: nearly 43,000 Americans lose their lives to gun violence every year. These are unbearable statistics, and we must do better as a Commonwealth and as a nation to address this crisis.
Rural Housing Workshop This Weekend
This Saturday, June 3, I will join Habitat for Humanity-Powhatan for a Rural Housing Workshop. We will discuss aging rural infrastructure such as septic systems and the effect of climate change on rural communities. I am honored to join two amazing individuals: Ebonie Alexander, founder of the Black Family Land Trust, and Catherine Coleman Flowers, an internationally-recognized environmental activist, who was recently highlighted as one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2023.
Low income and rural communities bear the brunt of climate change, and action must be taken to mitigate the worst effects. According to Habitat for Humanity, more than 500,000 households in the Commonwealth rely on septic systems that are more than forty years old. These systems can potentially become a public health hazard if not maintained or replaced. I look forward to discussing these issues with participants. The event is free, but registration is recommended.
States Lay the Foundation Panel
Next Tuesday, June 6, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Refugee Advocacy Lab will host its fourth annual "States Lay the Foundation" policy discussion with state officials from across the country regarding refugee and immigrant integration. I will join the discussion with Utah State Representative Jordan Teuscher on legislation to expand employment opportunities for new Americans. Registration for this important conversation is available here.
Early Voting for June Primaries
Primary Day is Tuesday, June 20. However, early voting began a few weeks ago and is still ongoing. Early voting gives everyone a chance to cast their ballot at a day and time that is convenient for their schedule.
Early, In-Person Voting
Early, in-person voting in the current 10th Senatorial District is available only at the Registrar's Office for the June Primary Election. No other polling locations are open for early voting.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the June 2023 primary is next Friday, June 9, by 5:00pm. All ballots must be postmarked by June 20 (Primary Election Day), or dropped off at the corresponding drop off location. Using a delivery service that allows tracking is recommended.
Highlights from Community Events & Meetings
Connecting With My Office