Westboro Attack on Danica Roem Spurs Flood of Campaign Donations

Don't mess with America's first openly trans state legislator.

Westboro Baptist Church intended to bring down the wrath of God on the nation’s first openly trans state legislator. Instead, they inspired a surge of donations for her re-election bid.

Danica Roem, 13th District House Delegate of Virginia, raised more than $16,000 in less than 12 hours Friday, after the fervently anti-LGBTQ group announced it would protest the politician on March 11.

The donations for her 2019 re-election bid came from more than 400 people, Roem tells NewNowNext.

Roem made history in November 2017 when she beat anti-trans incumbent Bob Marshall to become the first openly trans American elected to serve in a state legislature. Three additional out trans candidates have since claimed wins in their bid for state office.

Roem says she knew of WBC’s planned protest last Saturday but didn’t want to draw attention the group, which is infamous for protesting military funerals and LGBTQ Pride events. After their plans made the local news, however, “it was all bets off.”

WBC plans to picket near Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and the Virginia State Capitol. In a bizarre press release riddled with anti-trans hate speech, WBC accused the Virginia General Assembly of “harboring an enemy of God” in Roem.

“Danica Roem fills the air with words about how to ‘balance’ covering ‘an LGBTQ elected official.’ Blah, blah, blah,” it states.

VCU condemned Westboro but acknowledged that the group’s message is protected by the first amendment. “Hate speech does not reflect VCU’s core values of diversity, inclusion and respect for all,” the university said.

Roem responded to the attack in a statement she released on Twitter.  

“Please use this quote in its entirety as I put the amount of thought the situation warrants into it: ‘Meh,’” she wrote. “Oh, and donate money to my re-election campaign. They’ll hate that.”

People did. What started as a modest ask to reach $2,000 quickly snowballed. By midnight she raised $15,962 with donations continuing to climb and the hashtag #WestboroBackfire picking up traction across social media.

Among those pledging donations was LGBTQ Victory Fund Board Chair Chris Abele, who matched the first $5,000 raised, Roem confirms. Other donors include constituents from the four communities in her district: Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas, and Manassas Park.

Roem tells NewNowNext the moment drives home the prevalence of transphobia, despite her 2017 victory, but reaffirms that there are people backing leaders who hold up inclusivity.

“The people of the 13th District elected me to focus on their priorities of traffic, jobs, schools, and health care while working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth,” she says. “That way, no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship if you do or who you love, you’re welcomed, celebrated, respected and protected here because of who you are, not despite it. Unless you’re WBC. Or neo-Nazis. Because, I mean… do I really need an asterisk to explain why?”

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.
@shoeleatherkate