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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.
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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