We ought to be able to live without fear of discrimination or persecution based on what we look like, who we love, or how we worship. Having grown up gay in the south, Ben knows what it’s like to face discrimination. Rooting out homophobia, transphobia, and racism is a constant struggle. From fighting racism in our criminal justice system to advocating for academic equity, Ben will be a champion for individual freedom and equality.
My opponent, Senator Bryce Reeves, just voted to allow conversion therapy on minors. I’m not surprised. This is somebody who in 2017 campaigned on the idea that openly gay people should not be allowed to be judges. Torturing kids into staying in the closet must sound like the ideal solution to him. Senator Reeves believes we should not be free to love who we love, that our career paths should be limited and we should be denied real opportunities in life for being LGBTQ. In contrast, I think freedom means equal opportunity for all.
This year, Senator Reeves voted to allow landlords to discriminate, to allow public employers to discriminate, and to allow conversion therapy on minors.
Religious freedom. Genuine protection of religious freedom means protecting all Virginians from faith-based discrimination by the government. The right to practice our faith without fear of persecution is a freedom guaranteed to all Americans. Recently, our own community has witnessed unfortunate religious discrimination when the Islamic Center of Culpeper was denied a permit that had been granted to every Christian church which had applied for it. The evidence that the permit was denied due to their faith is overwhelming. Ben will fight for the freedom of every Virginian to practice their faith in peace.
Freedom of speech. Ben opposes censorship. The right way to fight bad speech is with better speech, not by banning the bad speech. The press is not the enemy of the people. Ben supports Delegate Roem’s bill to protect journalists from revealing their source, and Delegate Hurst’s efforts to protect free speech for student journalists.
Civil asset forfeiture. The government shouldn’t be able to take our property unless we’ve been convicted of a crime. Senate Bill 457 was a step in the right direction by requiring clear and convincing evidence of a crime before our property can be seized by authorities, but Ben would go further and vote to require criminal conviction before the state can get a forfeiture judgement. Ben’s opponent, Bryce Reeves, supports law enforcement being able to seize your car or other assets even if you haven’t been convicted of a crime.
Eminent domain.Ben opposes eminent domain for any project not essential to public safety. Dominion Energy wants to use eminent domain laws to steal people’s property and build the Atlantic Coast gas pipeline. President Trump has a long history of eminent domain abuse. Ben believes corporations and crony capitalists should not be able to take our land for their own gain.
2nd amendment rights. Ben supports the second amendment and believes we have a constitutional right to self-defense. He also knows that gun violence is a big problem, especially suicide. About two-thirds of gun deaths each year are suicides. Suicide prevention should be as common as cavity prevention. Let’s finally end the stigma against mental healthcare, dramatically expand access to affordable mental healthcare, and increase the number of school psychologists so they can teach anger management and self-harm prevention. Ben also supports gun buyback programs for anyone being treated for depression or at risk of self-harm, fully protected by doctor-patient confidentiality. Let’s pay people not to shoot themselves.
Ben also supports raising public awareness about responsible gun ownership in order to reduce accidental deaths of children who live in homes with unsecured guns. Let’s continue to educate the public about commonsense gun safety and encourage parents to store their guns unloaded in a locked safe, out of reach of curious children and teenagers experiencing a mental health crisis.
After suicide, the largest category of gun deaths are related to organized crime, gangs, and drugs. We can reduce gun homicides by ending the school-to-prison pipeline, stepping back from the failed drug war, creating more vocational and career training opportunities, and tackling the racism in our criminal justice system.
Immigration. There’s no such thing as an illegal person. We need more immigration, not less. Virginia is growing at its slowest rate since the 1920’s. Increased immigration means bigger markets, which means more demand and more jobs. Our Hispanic and Latino friends and neighbors should not be afraid to participate in society. Ben supports returning immigration services to the Department of Justice instead of the Department of Homeland Security because immigrants and refugees are not terrorists. Ben thinks Federal laws should be enforced at the Federal level, that politics should be kept out of the county sheriff’s office, and that local law enforcement should focus on enforcing local laws and protecting and supporting families and communities. Ben will work to provide constituent services for all his constituents, regardless of whether or not they have documentation.