Activists turn out for Equality Virginia’s lobby day
Gay rights advocates have been active at Capitol Square this legislative session, seeking laws that would ban discrimination in employment and adoptions on the basis of sexual orientation.
About 75 people turned out last week for the annual Lobby Day held by Equality Virginia, which advocates for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Activists spent the morning of Jan. 24 lobbying members of the General Assembly on LGBT-related legislation. That was followed by a series of workshops on various topics and a legislative reception in the evening.
“Most of what we’re addressing is equality in employment,” said Roland Winston, the executive director of the LGBT rights group Mothers and Others.
“We [also] don’t want discrimination in adoption. … There are two bills that have been submitted to ensure that religious institutions do not ever have to place children with gay people, and we’re opposed to those.”
Winston said Equality Virginia was lobbying for Senate Bill 569, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, that would ban adoption discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Jasper Hendricks, the openly gay chair of the Appomattox Democratic Committee, said some of the legislators he lobbied – such as Sen. Thomas Garrett, R-Bumpass – seemed surprised to meet him.
“State Sen. Garrett told me that, by looking at me and by talking to me, [he] didn’t get that I was gay,” Hendricks said. “And that’s why it’s important to have different voices on the issues, because it helps to put the biases aside.”
Rebecca Voskeritchian, who has spina bifida, said that her disability made her want to lobby against what she called “double discrimination.”
“Having the [legislation forbidding] workplace discrimination go through would be important to me,” said Voskeritchian, a master’s student in social work at Virginia Commonwealth University, “because then that’s one less [type of] discrimination that I would have to deal with.”
One Virginia mother said she had a personal stake in the struggle for LGBT rights. The mother, who asked that her name not be used, said she was there on behalf of her transgender child.
“I came today for the first time to lobby,” she said. “It’s a great experience. I’m not very political, I guess. … I just kind of talked from my mother’s perspective of a young transgender child.”
The Rev. Robin Gorsline said he was lobbying on behalf of several bills, including House Bill 115, the “Solemnization of Marriage Act.”
“This is a bill to allow religious leaders and others in congregations to marry people even if the marriage is not recognized legally by the commonwealth,” said Gorsline, the president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia. He said the existing law infringed upon freedom of religion.
“Currently we have a law that says if I as a pastor or a priest or a rabbi stands up and says, ‘I marry you’ to two women or two men, it is not a valid marriage, and I’m actually breaking the law,” said Gorsline, who moderated a workshop on the subject.
Other workshop topics included how to ensure safer schools for LGBT youth and how to talk about LGBT issues.
In the latter session, Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish discussed terminology pertaining to gay rights activism. He advocated using “sexual orientation” rather than “sexual preference” and simply “marriage” instead of “gay marriage.”
“We all want the same thing,” Parrish said. “When two older people want to get married, we don’t call it ‘elder marriage’… and there’s no such thing as ‘gay marriage.’ We just want access to marriage.”
Later, Equality Virginia held a reception in the Library of Virginia lobby. Legislators in attendance included Democratic Delegates Joe Morrissey of Highland Springs and David Toscano of Charlottesville, as well as Sen. Ebbin.
“Equality Virginia cannot be successful at all if we don’t have people like [the attendees] involved,” Parrish said.
“I can go down there every day and see every delegate, but I only vote for two of them, so that’s the only two who are going to listen to me. …. It does take everyone to make this happen.”
Wednesday is AIDS Awareness Day at Capitol. The advocacy group Virginia Organizations Responding to AIDS will hold its annual lobbying day on Wednesday at Capitol Square. Participants will meet at the General Assembly Building for breakfast before lobbying their delegates and senators on AIDS-related legislation. The event will feature Miss America 2010, Caressa Cameron, as a speaker. Cameron, a native of Fredericksburg, is an organizer for AIDS United in Washington, D.C.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”
The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.
The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.
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