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Senator Kaine on Pride, Politics, and Possibilities

GayRVA caught up with Tim Kaine at VA PrideFest this year on the festival's nationwide importance.

Jo Rozycki | September 26, 2018

The first day of fall was more colorful and boisterous than usual: VA PrideFest, held on Brown’s Island, was louder and busier than ever. The energy of those in attendance perfectly captured the amount of excitement, and even restlessness, the LGBTQ community and its allies are feeling this year. With 2018 more than halfway over, and midterm elections just around the corner, PrideFest felt like a festival of equal parts anticipation and celebration.

Mayor Levar Stoney welcomed the cheering crowd midday Saturday, speaking on the importance of the festival amidst the division across our nation in recent years.

“They can divide all they want,” said Stoney. “I’m not going to say their names…but I’ll say: Donald Trump, Corey Stewart, the Republican Party. And that’s why they won.”

With an uproarious response from the crowd, Stoney introduced Senator Tim Kaine to massive cheers. After his brief speech welcoming the attendees, I caught up with Kaine to ask him about Virginia PrideFest.

Jo Rozycki: Senator Kaine, it’s good to see you. How are you doing today?

Kaine: I’m good! Today is a classic campaign day. I started [in] the coal fields of Appalachia, here, and then two events down in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, so a good day.

Rozycki: Why is coming here today so important for you?

Kaine: Our LGBT community is an amazing part of Richmond, and an amazing part of Virginia. First time I came, it was interesting. We used to have it in the festival market square right next to the coliseum. I remember going when I was mayor, and they said I was the first mayor to go. The crowd was pretty small. It was a lively crowd, but it was not a crowd like this. It’s so cool to see it from 1998 to today. That would have been twenty years ago. Just the intensity and the crowd and the energy and the support, I’m very excited to come and see it.

Rozycki: Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court means a lot for the LGBT community.

Kaine: Absolutely, yes.

Rozycki: Would you mind just elaborating what that would mean for the LGBT community?

Kaine: It definitely means a lot. I came out against Judge Kavanaugh a couple of weeks ago, because I did not have the confidence when I interviewed him in my office that he would respect important precedence: precedence like marriage equality or women’s reproductive freedom. I just didn’t get the feeling of confidence that he would respect precedence. Our LGBT community has been advanced by a court willing to uphold that equal means equal. I think we have reason to worry about whether he would be a champion for that same principle.

Rozycki: I understand you’re at the federal level, but since you have experience with the local level, gerrymandering has been a really big issue here. Especially in central Virginia. That can mean a lot at the General Assembly level with certain bills, specifically LGBT bills that have been killed, or even anti-LGBT bills that have been passed. What can that gerrymandering mean for central Virginia?

Kaine: The nice thing is with the veto power of the governor, he can veto a bad redistricting in 2021. But you’re right: we have a state that has all the statewide officials as Democrats. It tells you something about the statewide electorate. But because of gerrymandering, you end up with two Republican houses that have not necessarily been favorable to LGBT equality. And there are some exceptions. But as a general rule, they’re not. If you had a fair redistricting process that produced a House and a Senate that was a little more like the statewide electorate, you’d have a much better chance of advancing pro-equality bills.

Rozycki: Mayor Levar Stoney raised the Pride Flag over Brown’s Island for the first time. It’s amazing and monumental and very symbolic. That being said, what can we do as a community, and what can you do as a Senator, to bring that action outside of this festival?

Kaine: As the mayor said, it shouldn’t be a week, it shouldn’t be a day, it should be 52 weeks a year. That’s why at the federal level, the best thing I can do is push things like the Equality Act — which is the civil rights bill I have that would go into every civil rights piece of legislation, to make sure people are protected based on their gender expression or sexual orientation. We need to do that in the Equality Act. Best thing I can do is, at the federal level, try to promote pro-equality legislation, which I do.

I went to the Pulse site in the fall of 2016 when I was on the national ticket. It was a very emotional one for me because it wasn’t until I walked up to the site that a thought kind of formed in my mind: As bad as the Virginia Tech tragedy was, I’d always hoped it would be the worst. And now it’s been eclipsed not only by Pulse, but by the Vegas shooting as well. We’re seeing this toxic combination of hatred. Even our nation’s leader gives people license to express hatred. And then you combine that with an unwillingness to [make] reasonable rules about gun safety, you have these sad tragedies. We have to stop them. I actually think we’re very close–if we take the House–to put reasonable gun safety bills on the president’s desk. We’d have to fight with him over veto, but I think we’re close to getting him to do so.

Rozycki: Any final thoughts?

Kaine: No, just glad to be out here.

Kaine’s thoughts on the importance of coming out to events like PrideFest, as well as showing up for the legislation that matters within the Senate, manifested in his presence at the festival. With many of his fans flocking to speak to him and take pictures, it’s not wonder why he, along with his fellow Democratic constituents, made themselves known at PrideFest. Speaking to him at an equality event back in May, as well as on Saturday, it is evident that he truly cares about the central message “equality for all.”