An Army of Heroes
We are recruiting an army of heroes. I already know some. During many hours at the General Assembly over the past few weeks, I see some who are truly engaged in the struggle for justice and equality.
First on my list is Senator Donald McEachin (Richmond). For the second year in a row, he has sponsored and co-sponsored bills to end discrimination in state employment. And for the second year in a row, his main bill passed the Senate. He is a tower of strength. His staff also is wonderfully helpful.
Second on my list is Delegate Adam Ebbin (Fairfax), the only openly gay member of the General Assembly. He must get tired of having that phrase attached to his name all the time (especially when he knows he is not the only one). However, he just keeps showing up, sponsoring legislation, speaking truth to power.
Next is Delegate David Englin (Alexandria). He stands up against marriage inequality—each year, he sponsors the bill to put repeal of the Marshall-Newman Anti-Marriage Amendment on the ballot. This year he offered a strong bill to protect students against bullying.
Fourth is Delegate Tom Rust (Herndon), the only Republican on my list. It is not because of party—our cause crosses party lines—but because almost all Republicans in Virginia government reject the cause of equality for LGBT Virginians. Tom is a brave man. His own party treated him shabbily when his bill came up.
Delegate Ken Plum (Reston) has been an ally for a long time—seeking to amend the state Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and also help students avoid bullying. Senator Mamie Locke (Hampton) and Delegate Jim Scott (Fairfax) also stand up for equality.
Most of these legislative heroes are from Northern Virginia. That has to change. We need to contact our legislators from Central Virginia to ask them, “Why are you not working for equality? Why are you not standing up with Don McEachin?”
I also know other heroes, especially those who testify before committees and subcommittees: clergy, state employees (who could lose their jobs by coming out), university professors, young people, lobbyists like Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga of Equality Virginia and Ben Greenberg of Virginia Organizing and POFEV’s Cameron Hunt.
I want to speak of you also. Are you already, or will you become, a hero?
Are you writing, or will you write, to legislators (and send me a copy so we can track these efforts and also follow up with those you write)? Are you already coming, or will you come, to Richmond to speak in person? Are you already contacting, or will you contact, your legislator in his or her home office when the General Assembly is not in session?
We need a mass movement of local heroes to create a larger group of heroes in the Capitol.
In the next 10 days or so we will sending out an SOS for hundreds to attend a meeting of the Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process Subcommittee of the General Laws Committee. This is the group that summarily dumped all the House bills (offered by Ebbin, Rust, and Scott) on employment non-discrimination as well as Del. Plum’s bill on the state Human Rights Act.
It also is the subcommittee whose chairperson, Del. C. Todd Gilbert, told Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga, “If this (discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity) were really a problem, there would be a line out the door and down the hall of people wanting to testify.”
We have an opportunity to show him our line.
Senator McEachin’s bill will come to them, sometime in mid-February. We will not know until a short time before the meeting—perhaps only a few hours—when they will meet. This is one way citizen participation is limited (intentional or unintentional).
We will be sending out alerts as soon as we know. Please watch for them—and try to come to the meeting.
Let’s fill the General Assembly Building—and even a line going outside, if need be, with heroes—so that the folks sitting at the table can do the heroic thing: vote for equality.
And there are other things you can do, too. You can attend the POFEV annual Equality Prayer Breakfast on February 15 and the annual Marriage Equality Witness on February 14. More information is available at http://www.faith4equalityva.org/events.html
They need our help to do the right thing. Let’s do it.
Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline is President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, an interfaith organization of gay and straight clergy and lay people working for equality for LGBT Virginians. Read more of his thoughts on faith and spirituality on his personal blog.
Two bills that would allow businesses to discriminate against Virginia’s LGBTQ community were joined into one Senate bill Monday afternoon in Senate General Laws and Technology subcommittee. While a House version of the bill, HB 773, was heard today, the subcommittee joined it with SB 41 by a 8-7 vote across party lines. SB 41, introduced [...]February 22, 2016
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