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.
St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.
Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.
Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.
Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Given the warm weather lately, Saturday’s RVA Polar Plunge Winter Fest, benefiting Special Olympics Virginia, might actually be enjoyable! Other weekend events you’re sure to enjoy include the 14th annual Richmond Kids Expo at the Richmond Raceway Complex, the Richmond Symphony and The Taters in concert at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and the Richmond Ballet Minds in Motion Team XXL performing at the Henrico Theatre. This is also the last weekend to check out HATTheatre’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarCamp Kesem at University of Richmond, an organization dedicated to supporting children through and beyond their parent’s cancer, will hold its annual Make the Magic event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Alice Haynes Room on the UR campus. Funds raised during this annual charity dinner will help provide year-long peer support and send 70 campers ages 6-16 to camp from August 12-17. Student volunteers from University of Richmond will assist at the event, which will include a cocktail hour, camper family guest speakers, live paddle raise, raffle prizes, photobooth fun, and musical entertainment. To learn more about Camp Kesem, visit http://www.campkesem.org/richmond. For details about the event and to purchase tickets, visit http://tinyurl.com/URMTM2017. Full text