At a juncture in American history when the concept of good news seems fantastical, there was a bit of encouraging news upon waking Wednesday morning. Most of the bad news over the past several months was not necessarily that the Trump administration still exists, it has been the raging religious attacks on women, LGBTQ people, and non-Christians that Trump plays a pivotal role in executing.
One of the nation’s worst religious right bigots after Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions, a nasty piece of work named Robert Marshall, expected to win another stint as a delegate to Virginia’s legislature so he could continue to intimidate and discriminate against women, the LGBTQ community, and anyone unwilling to toe the evangelical line. In a glorious win for the “good people” of Virginia, Marshall was not victorious. Instead, justice prevailed and he was soundly defeated by a Virginia resident who represents everything Marshall hates and has spent his political career tormenting – LGBTQ people.
Danica Roem is a former journalist and now the first openly transgender elected to a state legislature in America after she defeated “bigot Bob” Marshall. She is also a singer in a “melodic” heavy metal band that was almost certainly an extra irritant to Marshall’s “holier-than-thou” sensibilities. Regardless what the defeat meant to Marshall, Ms. Roem’s victory was historic as a transgender woman; defeating a raging religious right homophobe and “real conservative” was “extra sweet.”
As an aside, another transgender won a first-ever city council seat in Minneapolis; it informs that Americans are rejecting bigotry driven by religion and actually voting for a candidate based on their policies and qualifications, not on who they hate according to their religion. Andrea Johnson was the “first ever” African American transgender woman to win an election in America.
Roem likely captured some national attention not so much because she is the first state-level transgender to win an election, but because she defeated an avowed malcontent Catholic that wears his religious bigotry proudly and refers to himself as “chief homophobe.” Obviously in the 21st Century Virginia voters were no longer impressed that their representative was a religious bigot.
Marshall is so much more than just a nasty bigot; he is as religiously vicious an anti-women’s choice Catholic as the author of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. Marshall is one of those personhood freaks that, besides claiming contraceptives are abortion and a mortal sin, invents fantasy science as a means to control women. A few years ago he confidently asserted that abortion causes birth defects in subsequent pregnancies. He also made an attempt at fear-mongering and warned that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would reinstate the draft and force the unwilling to serve.
He preached that “X-rated videos were a public health hazard” and authored an amendment to the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage. His pride and joy, however, and a tool he should not have used in the campaign, was his legislation banning transgender people from using the correct restroom. Although his bill perished in committee, he embraced the “chief homophobe” role throughout the campaign as a badge of honor.
Marshall spent time during the campaign claiming that Ms. Roem’s identity was “against the laws of nature and nature’s god.” To belabor the point, Marshall always referred to “Ms. Roem” using a male pronoun to prove to voters that he’s right with “nature’s god.” Marshall refused to debate Roem and instead resorted to typical Republican mudslinging and ugliness over Ms. Roem’s performance in an old music video. Apparently if X-rated videos are a “public health hazard,” then a heavy metal music video Ms. Roem sang in was “lewd” according to Marshall.
Marshall and his supporters also produced disgusting hate campaign ads “disparaging Ms. Roem’s transgender identity.” It’s a tactic that likely backfired after the level of hate Virginians recently witnessed in Charlottesville.
In response to the attacks on her gender, Ms. Roem explained why Marshall had to resort to the only thing he knows; hate and bigotry borne of religion. She said: “This is what happens when he can’t defeat me [on] the core quality-of-life issues facing the people of the 13th District . . .”
As it turns out, Ms. Roem had no difficulty convincing voters that Marshall is so consumed with hate inspired by his devotion to “nature’s god” that he had been woefully negligent to the needs of his constituents and their concerns about roads, education, equality and jobs.
After her victory, Ms. Roem said:
“Discrimination is a disqualifier This is about the people of the 13th District disregarding fear tactics, disregarding phobias . . . where we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.”
In Ms. Roem’s case, the voters supporter her because she pledged to work towards alleviating their concerns over jobs, education and transportation. Her victory was a win for the LGBTQ community for sure, but it is also a telling sign that campaigning on hate, although the only thing Marshall knows, is not what voters are interested in.
Roem’s victory is also a signal that the evangelical hate groups are not representative of the entire population. It is true they run the government, something Trump has allowed with his blessings, but the people are growing weary of their tax dollars going to torture other Americans because of whom they love, what gender they identity with, or whether a woman chooses to give birth or not. It is an encouraging sign that despite the vocal minority making up the Republicans’ base, all Americans are not hateful bigots; fortunately Virginia residents will not have to put up with the self-proclaimed “chief homophobe” any longer.
Bob Marshall is not a nice man and the level of hate he dished out daily informs that he is not any kind of “real Christian.” This author has had a personal interest in seeing Marshall thrown out of office and the public’s consciousness for eight years. Marshall took exception to an op-Ed newspaper column condemning his attacks on gays and women and made a written response that was very personal and unrelated to the theme of the admittedly incendiary hit piece. That it was a transgender woman who defeated the dirty bigot is sweet justice indeed.
It is a travesty that the 13th District voters gave Marshall 26 years in the legislature to spread hate and bigotry, but it is heartening to learn that the voters finally became decent citizens and rejected his hate. It cannot be overstated that for the LGBTQ community, beleaguered women in Virginia, and decent Americans everywhere there is justice that a person representing everything Marshall hates was the candidate to send him packing. Maybe there is hope for America after all.