On Tuesday, Danica Roem defeated incumbent Bob Marshall to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. The 33-year-old Democrat, who is transgender, easily defeated the 73-year-old Republican, who is perhaps the most anti-LGBTQ politician in America. Marshall has held the seat since 1992 and won reelection in 2015 by 12 percentage points. Once Roem is seated, she will be the first openly transgender person to be elected to, and serve in, a state legislature.*
Marshall is notorious for introducing anti-LGBTQ legislation. After Congress repealed the federal ban on gays in the military, Marshall proposed a measure to ban openly gay people from serving in the Virginia National Guard. “It’s a distraction … and I’m worried about this guy who’s got eyes on me,” Marshall said. He also derailed the appointment of a judge solely because he was gay, and served as the primary sponsor of Virginia’s successful constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 2015, he proposed a radical bill that would legalize anti-LGBTQ segregation in hotels, restaurants, businesses, schools, government agencies, and hospitals. And in 2016, he put forth a measure that would bar transgender students from using the school bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, and requiring principals to out gender-nonconforming students to their parents.
Marshall’s avowed hatred of LGBTQ people—he has called himself the state’s “chief homophobe”—inspired Roem, a journalist from Northern Virginia, to run for his seat. Throughout the campaign, Marshall misgendered Roem and launched cruel attacks on her gender identity, depicting her as a bathroom predator. In response, Roem embraced her identity in a remarkable ad:
Roem trounced Marshall, apparently winning over a substantial portion of Republican voters in the right-leaning northern Virginia district. She also outraised Marshall with help from national LGBTQ rights groups. Her landslide is part of a broader Democratic wave that swept Virginia on Tuesday, carrying Democrats to victory at every level of the government.
*Update, Nov. 7, 2017: This post has been updated to clarify that Roem will be the first openly transgender person to be elected to, and serve in, a state legislature once she is seated. In 1992, Althea Garrison was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives without disclosing her gender identity. In 2008, Stacie Laughton was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, but her election was nullified after the state attorney general concluded that she was not eligible to run for elected office.