Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Laxalt was targeted Monday for a “career-long attack” on the LGBTQ community, as activists urged voters to reject the former state attorney general at the polls.
LGBTQ advocacy groups view Laxalt as part of a broader threat amid an increase in legislation across the United States that they fear would roll back recent gains toward equality.
“Although we’ve made remarkable strides here in Nevada to protect the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ people, there’s a movement festering that is determined to drag us backward,” Silver State Equality State Director Andre Wade said.
The advocacy group joined two others — Gender Justice Nevada and the Human Rights Campaign Las Vegas — to criticize Laxalt’s record on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, among others, during a news conference at The LGBTQ+ Center in Las Vegas.
The castigation of Laxalt came less than two weeks after he appeared March 31 on a Breitbart podcast and praised a bill in Florida that forbids sexual orientation and gender identity education for young students.
“Why in the world are they fighting so hard for the ability to indoctrinate kids from age kindergarten to third grade?” Laxalt said, referring to opponents of the legislation, which the White House, Democrats and others have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Laxalt, who has often condemned so-called “woke leftists,” gave “kudos” to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for signing the bill on March 28. Critics have argued that it marginalizes LGBTQ people.
‘Most vile elements of radical left’
A poll last month commissioned by Club for Growth, which has endorsed Laxalt’s Senate bid, showed Laxalt as the Republican front-runner in the race, which could pit him against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in the November general election. Cortez Masto is viewed as an ally by the LGBTQ advocacy groups that were represented during Monday’s news conference.
John Burke, a Laxalt campaign spokesman, echoed Laxalt’s response to Breitbart in a statement Monday.
“Instead of having our campaign answer for this, Cortez Masto should be explaining to Nevada parents why she has cozied up to fringe elements of her own party who push transgenderism in kindergarten,” Burke said. “Adam Laxalt will continue to stand with Nevada parents and their rights while Cortez Masto sides with the most vile elements of the radical left as they continue poisoning our education system.”
But neither families nor children should have to hide who they are, said Sy Bernabei, executive director of Gender Justice Nevada. To do so only emboldens bullies and suggests that there is something wrong with being a part of the LGBTQ community, according to Bernabei, who added that talks about gender identity were not the same as conversations about sex.
“We will not hide like the millions of those who came before us, who would be arrested for being gay, beaten and killed or given electroshock therapy,” Bernabei said. “No matter how much you try to break us, invalidate us and terrorize us, we will prevail.”
Speaking out against ‘growing national movement’
Laxalt, when the attorney general, said in 2014 that he would “vigorously defend” Nevada’s constitutional provision banning gay marriage and that he believed marriage was between a man and a woman. The amendment, enacted in 2000 and 2002, was struck down as unconstitutional by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2014.
His critics on Monday also pointed to other parts of Laxalt’s record on LGBTQ issues: They said he supported allowing health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people, he backed banning LGBTQ people from serving openly in the military and he opposed protection for LGBTQ youth facing discrimination in schools.
“Adam Laxalt is part of a growing national movement that wants to turn the LGBTQ+ community back into second-class citizens and we’re not here for that,” said Brian Martin, a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s board of governors.
Lawmakers across the country have proposed a record 238 pieces of legislation this year that would limit the rights of LGBTQ people, and about half of those bills target transgender people, according to Wade.
“Nevada will not become a domino of an extreme right strategy to curtail and eliminate our civil rights of not only LGBTQ+ people, but women, people of color and others who have fought for social justice,” he said.