"The only LGBT judges on the bench in Virginia are there due to my efforts."
Marilyn Drew Necci | October 16, 2017
Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi, who represents Virginia’s 68th District, will not attend a candidate forum planned for Tuesday, October 24. The forum is hosted by several LGBTQ organizations, including the Virginia Equality Bar, Equality Virginia, The Log Cabin Republicans Virginia Chapter, and the Richmond Business Alliance.
Loupassi’s challenger, Dr. Dawn Adams, is already confirmed as attending the forum, to be held at Ridge Elementary School in Henrico County. Loupassi’s decision not to attend was first publicized by a release from the Adams campaign yesterday, and was confirmed by GayRVA in a conversation with Del. Loupassi. Adams released a statement in response to Loupassi’s no-show, saying, “I think it’s unfortunate that Mr. Loupassi again and again demonstrates that he does not need to be accountable to the voters of the 68th district or engage in conversation with his constituency. This is why in part, we need new leadership in our district; we need someone who listens and respond as the people’s representative.”
For his part, Loupassi defended his decision not to attend the forum. “I already debated her,” he told GayRVA, citing a Sept. 13 candidate forum hosted by the Richmond First Club, at which the two candidates did indeed debate. He also pointed out that he still works full-time as a lawyer, and that this sometimes precludes his availability for campaign events such as this one. However, the implication that Loupassi may have issues with the LGBTQ community was one he was quick to dispel, pointing out his nomination to the 13th General District Court of Tracy Thorne-Begland, an openly gay commonwealth’s attorney with a history of LGBTQ advocacy.
Loupassi both sponsored Thorne-Begland’s initial nomination and became one of only 8 of the Assembly’s 39 Republican members to vote for his approval. The path for Thorne-Begland to achieve his current position as a District Court judge was long and complex, initially being voted down by the General Assembly before eventually being appointed to the position on an interim basis by the Richmond Circuit Court judges. He was finally appointed to a full term on the General District Court by the General Assembly during 2013′s session.
Loupassi told GayRVA that while, before overseeing the Thorne-Begland nomination process, he’d been against creating specific employment protections for those discriminated against due to sexual orientation, he’d changed his mind after the fight to get Thorne-Begland on the bench. “Since then, I’ve supported it,” he said. “I am one of only two Republican delegates who’ve openly supported and voted for [LGBTQ civil rights issues]. To act like I’m unwilling to take a stand, or that I’m not in favor of LGBT equality, is unfair.”
Indeed, Loupassi’s record reflects this commitment to LGBTQ rights. In 2014, he was one of four Courts Of Justice Civil Law Subcommittee members to vote in favor of a bill to allow second-parent adoption of children by unmarried couples, which had the effect of allowing same-sex families to exist legally in a time when marriage equality had not yet reached Virginia. In that same subcommittee later that year, Loupassi also voted in favor of a bill to end Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages. These votes were ultimately losing efforts, as both bills failed to make it out of the subcommittee, but Loupassi’s votes in favor of them cannot go unnoticed.
More recently, Loupassi abstained in 2016 from a House Of Delegates vote on the so-called “Government Nondiscrimination Act,” which cloaked anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the guise of religious freedom in much the same manner as the Department Of Justice’s recent amicus briefs in support of Masterpiece Cake Shop and Altitude Express, both of which are claiming religious beliefs as excuses to fire LGBTQ employees or discriminate against LGBTQ customers.
“I am against religious discrimination being protected by law,” Loupassi said of this particular measure. “But I missed the vote. I don’t miss a ton of votes, but it’s no more or less than anyone else.” Loupassi claimed to miss around 5% of total General Assembly votes, a number he assured us was comparable with many Delegates from both sides of the aisle. However, he defended his abstention from this particular vote by pointing out his pro-LGBTQ credentials on other issues. “The only LGBT judges on the bench in Virginia are there because of my efforts,” he said. “To act like I dodge tough votes is ridiculous and inaccurate.”
Loupassi ended the conversation by pointing out that LGBTQ Virginians might not want to rely solely on one political party for support of their issues. “You need to have friends in both parties,” he said, explaining that in a Republican-controlled legislature, it was easier to get things passed with support from both sides of the aisle. “I tend to be more bipartisan.”
Loupassi’s bipartisan bona fides are perhaps why he’s continued to do well in an increasingly blue-leaning district. While Obama lost the 68th District vote by 10 points in 2012, Hillary Clinton won the district by 10 points in the 2016 Presidential election. Meanwhile, Loupassi received 61.3 percent of the vote in 2015, 62.7 percent in 2013, and 54 percent of the vote in his initial election to the 68th district seat in 2007. This has enabled him to build up a solid base of support, which is reflected in the heavy presence of campaign advertisements visible throughout his district.
Ultimately, this may be a candidate forum that Loupassi doesn’t need to attend in order to continue winning his 68th District seat. However, he took pains to let GayRVA know that he does value his LGBTQ constituents, and stands up for their rights on the Assembly floor. He’s no Bob Marshall, that’s for sure. And that counts for something.