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Danica Roem becomes U.S.’s 1st openly transgender person elected to state legislature

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Danica Roem made history as the first openly transgender person to be elected to a U.S. state legislature on Monday night.

And she did it by unseating Republican incumbent Bob Marshall, a controversial Virginia politician who earlier this year put forward a bill to restrict transgender people’s use of public bathrooms in the state, The Washington Post reported.

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Republican Ed Gillespie votes in Virginia’s gubernatorial race
Republican Ed Gillespie votes in Virginia’s gubernatorial race

Roem, a journalist who spent nine years covering local government, was elected in Virginia’s 13th district.

She will take her place in the state’s House of Delegates after beating a politician who had served 11 terms.

Gender wasn’t the central theme of Roem’s campaign — she focused on issues such as schools, employment and traffic congestion.

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Danica Roem.
Danica Roem. Facebook/Danica Roem for Delegate

She gave particular focus to Route 28, a road that has been called the “single biggest source of congestion” in Northern Virginia.

Roem told Mother Jones that voters don’t care what her gender is, but whether she can fix up that street.

Marshall nevertheless targeted Roem’s gender, repeatedly using male pronouns to describe her throughout the campaign.

“He has been misgendering me for months,” Roem told NBC News in October.

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Marshall also refused to debate Roem, reportedly because he was concerned that her supporters would call him “Bigot Bob” — Roem said such concerns were without foundation.

Virginia bathroom bill

In January, Marshall put forward the “Physical Privacy Act,” a bill that said “no individual shall enter a restroom or other facility designated for use by members of the opposite sex” in any government buildings, according to WTVR, a Richmond, Va.-based CBS affiliate.

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The bill would have also required that Virginia school principals let parents know when students wanted to be treated as members of the opposite sex, the Post reported.

Marshall was never optimistic about the bill’s success — outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe had previously said he would veto any legislation that “restricts the rights of Virginians based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” his spokesman Brian Coy said in a statement to the Post.

A Republican-led committee later killed the bill.

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Even if Roem didn’t focus on her gender during the campaign, her election win was still hailed on social media as a historic moment for transgender people Monday night.

The National Center for Transgender Equality tweeted the following:

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And this is what the Human Rights Campaign had to say:

“Danica Roem’s historic victory is a clear warning to anti-equality lawmakers across the country that the days of attacking LGBTQ people to scare up votes are over,” Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, said in a news release.

“HRC was proud to mobilize voters to support Danica Roem’s trailblazing candidacy, and we look forward to working with her to help continue moving equality forward in Virginia.”

State Sen. Jennifer Wexton congratulated Roem on her victory, calling her an “inspiration to all who aspire to serve!”

  • With files from The Associated Press