Virginia Delegate Receives Pushback After Report Saying She Wants to Make it Abuse to Not Affirm a Child’s Gender Identity

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) is working to introduce legislation that could make it child abuse or neglect for parents to not affirm their child’s sexual identity or gender orientation, according to a Thursday report from WJLA. That proposal triggered widespread criticism on Friday, and Guzman later criticized WJLA’s reporting.

“My bill will state in the Code of Virginia that bullying a child from the LGBTQ community, and this includes mental or physical abuse, to be abused for their sexual orientation or gender identity, that would be considered a Child Protective Services charge,” Guzman said in a video of the WJLA interview.

Guzman said that’s a reaction to the Youngkin administration’s draft model policies governing school transgender policies, which would require parental involvement in situations including if a child wanted to change their name or pronouns.

Guzman said her bill would expand the definitions of child neglect and abuse. Virginia law requires certain people to report child abuse, including medical professionals, law enforcement, public and private school teachers, and religious leaders like ministers, priests, and imams.

“If the child shares with those mandated reporters, what they are going through, we are talking about not only physical abuse or mental abuse, what the job of that mandated reporter is to inform Child Protective Services (CPS),” Guzman told WJLA.

That would trigger an investigation from social workers and law enforcement, which could result in charges for the accused abuser.

Guzman said, “It could be a felony, it could be a misdemeanor, but we know that CPS charge could harm your employment, could harm their education, because nowadays many people do a CPS database search before offering employment.”

Guzman also said in the WJLA video, “My intention was not to come after parents. My intention was to listen to all sides and come up with a conclusion of how can we help the child but also the parents as well.”

Guzman blasted the WJLA report on Twitter.

The way the bill was presented in the article was patently wrong,” she wrote as part of a thread.

In 2020, Guzman and then-Delegate Mark Levine co-patroned HB 580, a bill that would have expanded the definition of abused or neglected child to include “whose parent or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury on the basis of the child’s gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Guzman didn’t answer a request for comment, and it’s not clear if Guzman will re-introduce identical legislation. Still, that bill failed to gain traction even with Democratic control of the House, Senate, and governor’s pen. The Health, Welfare, and Institutions committee voted unanimously to kill the bill before it had a chance for a floor vote. House Minority Leader Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) told The Richmond Times-Dispatch Friday that the proposed legislation is an unnecessary distraction that would be dead on arrival.

If Guzman does introduce the legislation, Republicans are eager for the chance to kill it.

House Education Chairman Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) is vying with other Republican committee chairmen to have the proposed legislation assigned to his committee.

“I’m not sure where it would go, but there might be a fight on who gets this one,” he said.

“Sometimes there just happens to be a bill that a number of colleagues would like the chance to opine on,” he said.

Under new district lines, Guzman and Delegate Luke Torian (D-Prince William) are paired in House District 24. But there’s a rumor that Guzman is instead eyeing a senate seat, and she could potentially challenge Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William). In either case, that sets Guzman up for a race against another well-known Democrat for a nomination.

“I would imagine that this is a messaging bill for a primary race,” Davis said.

However, he said that while the region has many Democratic voters, he doesn’t think they’re extreme enough to favor legislation as described in the WJLA article.

“Honestly, if they were this extreme, there would have been a backlash when the Democratic Party killed a variation of this bill a couple of years ago,” he said.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Elizabeth Guzman” by Elizabeth Guzman. Background Photo “Virginia House of Delegates” by Antony-22. CC BY-SA 4.0.

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