Alex Pisciarino is the Young Republicans representative to the 5th Congressional District Republican Committee. He and Rek LeCounte, a graduate student at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, volunteered for Denver Riggleman’s 2018 campaign in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District.

Last summer, Rep. Denver Riggleman officiated our same-sex wedding. We were former campaign volunteers for Riggleman, and he performed a beautiful, loving ceremony that was at the core of the best day of our young lives.

In response to the kindness that Riggleman showed us, a cabal of local Republican Party apparatchiks began plotting his downfall. They demanded an apology, which Riggleman refused to issue. They drove committees in three counties to pass formal censure resolutions criticizing him. They also began recruiting a candidate to challenge him for the Republican nomination to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House. They found that candidate in Bob Good, a former Campbell County supervisor.

Good’s campaign was, fundamentally, an attack on our family and equality under the law.

On his first day as a supervisor, Good backed an Orwellian resolution that likened our freedom to marry to slavery. He encouraged county employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples legally entitled to them.

Building on this record, Good maligned our wedding in campaign fliers, news releases and appearances (including an event we attended). His allies attacked our wedding online for months. The 5th District Republican Committee chairman, Melvin Adams, who accused gay people of trying to “destroy the traditional family," campaigned with Good, supporting his “clear contrast” with Democrats. After one of us, Alex, was appointed to a committee vacancy, a pro-Good committee member refused to shake his hand.

As if this weren’t enough, Good campaign surrogates and supporters publicly inveighed against “these minorities,” “queers,” “pedophile homosexuals” and “sodomites.”

That’s the identity politics in which Good’s campaign was rooted and that, sadly, prevailed in the June 13 Republican nominating convention.

That same animus-based identity politics also infused the campaign debates over legal immigration. Though Riggleman shares Ronald Reagan’s view that our country should welcome hard-working, law-abiding aspiring Americans, Good rejects legal immigrants as future Democrats threatening our country.

Disturbing procedural battles abounded over how to choose the Republican nominee. Though Riggleman favored a simple, straightforward primary, the Good campaign demanded a convention. Prominent Good supporters threatened a lawsuit against any committee member who sought the option to switch from a convention to a primary. The pro-Good majority on the district committee, which included staffers Good paid through the campaign, gave minimal time for delegates to learn about or register for the “drive-through” convention, prohibited electronic voter registration and rejected the use of absentee ballots despite the viral pandemic. Virginia’s 5th District spans an area larger than New Jersey, but the committee located the convention just 10 minutes from Good’s home. Some voters had to drive for more than five hours round-trip just to cast a ballot. In a district of more than half a million voters, barely 1,500 crowned Good.

After the convention, some Good allies have asserted that his campaign was “not about a wedding,” presumably because they realize their divisive and hateful shenanigans will be a liability in November — just as they knew that Good would have handily lost a fair primary. That’s why they orchestrated a nominating process that effectively disenfranchised the vast majority of Republican voters. But like the “Lost Cause” mythology of the neo-Confederate Virginia Flaggers we saw roll through the convention voting lanes, the canards that this campaign was “not about a wedding” and that “the people decided” are revisionist history.

Ironically, this challenging ordeal has strengthened our conviction that we, an interracial gay couple, are welcome in the GOP. The cabal that supported Good isn’t representative of the Republican Party nor of Virginia. Thanks to Riggleman, we’ve met supportive conservative activists all across the commonwealth. The love and support we’ve encountered were so strong that they overpowered our once-visceral fear of being “out” in rural areas.

This is precisely why Riggleman’s antagonists scorched heaven and earth to avoid a real primary. They know Good is out of touch with Republican voters. If hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue, Good’s unyielding campaign to disenfranchise Republican voters was the homage he paid to our real conservative values.

As Riggleman contends with losing his job for having treated people with respect and Christian charity, he can hold his head high. He stood up for what’s right. In going down a martyr to human decency, Riggleman displayed leadership that Virginia and decent people everywhere can be proud of.

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