The following text comes from an Op-Ed written by VAYD LGBTQ Caucus Chair Elias Hakim for

Evan Draim’s GayRVA column “This Midterm Election, LGBTQ Voters Should Give Republicans a Chance” completely misses what’s at stake for LGBTQ people in this election cycle. From health care access to economic security, Democrats on the ballot in Virginia are on the right side of the issues, making them the clear choice for LGBTQ people and those who love us.

Leadership starts from the top, and for the Republican Party that’s President Donald Trump. The Trump-Pence administration has repeatedly taken aim at LGBTQ rights since the moment they took office. This administration encourages businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. This administration opposes the right of every student to use the bathroom that corresponds with their identity. This administration twice introduced proposals to ban transgender people from serving in our military. Just this week, the New York Times reported new plans for the Trump-Pence administration to rollback protections for transgender individuals by changing gender definitions under Title IX.

The highest ranks of our federal government have made LGBTQ people the explicit target of politically-motivated regulatory attacks. On November 6, we must elect champions for equality who will fight like hell for our civil rights in Congress.

The contrast between candidates on the ballot could not be sharper. Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is an outspoken advocate for equality who introduced federal legislation to end housing discrimination against LGBTQ people. His Republican opponent Corey Stewart sought out and earned the endorsement of an extremely anti-gay special interest group; he even voted against declaring June as Pride Month in Prince William County.

Republican Congressman Dave Brat (VA-07) opposes marriage equality and GOP 4thCongressional District Candidate Ryan McAdams is so conservative that he earned a visit from Vice President Mike Pence himself. On the other hand, Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-04) is a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, who earned Equality Virginia’s OUTstanding Virginian award in 2017. And when elected, 7thCongressional District Democratic nominee Abigail Spanberger will fight to protect LGBTQ rights, including our right to serve in our country’s military freely and proudly.

LGBTQ Virginians bring our whole selves to the ballot box and our intersecting identities – economic status, race, immigration status – drive our decisions when selecting candidates to represent us. Senator Kaine and our Democratic congressional candidates are committed to a progressive agenda that works for all of us. Democrats led the way to a more affordable and accessible healthcare system through the Affordable Care Act and eventually Medicaid Expansion here in the Commonwealth. Republicans Stewart, Brat and McAdams all want to see the ACA – which created affordable health insurance coverage for 400,000 Virginians – repealed.

After nationally-known shootings at Virginia Tech and Pulse Night Club, LGBTQ people in Virginia have an unfortunately intimate connection to gun violence. Despite voters flocking to support March for Our Lives and the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, each and every Republican on the ballot sides with the NRA.

We need real elected officials in Washington, DC, who will lead with moral courage and fight for every person’s rights. Stewart and his Republican ticketmates will continue to be complicit with the Trump-Pence administration’s efforts to protect rights for the wealthy few.

LGBTQ people can’t afford to give Republicans a chance because these elections have tremendous consequences. For example, the ultimate Supreme Court marriage equality decision on June 26, 2015 that brought Evan, me, and LGBTQ people across this nation to tears was made possible because Virginia’s Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring refused to defend the Commonwealth’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage — a position his Republican predecessor Ken Cuccinelli refused to take.

Our vote is powerful. On November 6, 2018, lovers of equality should cast their ballots for Democrats.

Elias Hakim is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, pursuing a degree in Political Science and Sociology. He serves as the Treasurer of the Young Democrats at VCU. As the Chair of Virginia Young Democrats LGBTQ Caucus, Elias is working to make the Party more accessible and accountable to marginalized queer communities. He has also previously interned in the Virginia General Assembly, a role that he plans to return to for the 2019 legislative session. Elias hopes to pursue a law degree a few years after finishing undergrad. He wants to establish a career in law and politics to provide solutions to issues that he cares about, including but not limited to; social justice, protecting our environment, and increasing access to quality education both domestically and abroad.