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.
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.
Citizen Staff Reports 07/04/2014
Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 07/03/2014
The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.
Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.
Grab the kids and check out these fun family-friendly events taking place this weekend! Speed over to the Henrico Theatre for the film “Turbo” or watch “Dumbo” under the stars at Clarke-Palmore House Museum. Little ones can meet Thomas the Tank Engine at CMOR-Central or play at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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