Equality Virginia Discusses Future Elections, Legislation
Each year, supporters around the state get the chance to speak to their delegates and senators at Equality Virginia’s annual Lobby Day.
This Wednesday, the morning started out with a pep rally to go over top legislation for the General Assembly’s session. Afterwards, each legislative office is visited.
“We just want to show that LGBT are present and thriving in Virginia,” Equality Virginia’s new executive director James Parrish says. ”Delegates will mention that they don’t have LGBT constituents in their district, so it’s important that we get that face time.”
This year, the advocacy organization put together a list of five bills to follow during the session:
- Non-discrimination in Public Employment HB2046, HB1509, SB747
- State & Local Employee Benefits
- Virginia Human Rights Act – SP797; HB 1755
- Anti-Bullying Laws – HB1575, HB 1758
- Repeal The Marshall-Newman Amendment – HJR 638
During the afternoon portion of Lobby Day, EV hosted a panel with Bob Holsworth, David Mills (pictured left), and Jeff Ryer (pictured right). The discussion was a forecast of the 2011 election and highlighted redistricting efforts. A few highlights below:
Moderator: How will redistricting go and LGBT Bills into General Assembly?
Holsworth: Redistricting occurs every 10 years with the census, when they redraw district lines. Because the population shifts, in order to comply with federal election law you have redraw districts basically the same size. Critics say it comes to the point where politicians choose their voters.
The Governor formed a bipartisan commission with advisors to oversee this process (Holsworth chairs the commission). We are going to come up in some ways with our own plan bipartisan plan that doesn’t use incumbant protection, but principals about contiguous districts and constincy with voting rights principals…
Ryer: The shift in population towards Northern Virginia and the urban areas is going to have an interesting impact on a variety of communities…
Moderator: Certainly LGBT issues have been seen as bipartisan where Democrats will get readily involved but not Republicans. What is your recommendation for a group like EV to have an impact in creating more inclusive legislation?
Holsworth: Look at the great advances the LGBT community made politically during the Cuccinelli letter to colleges and universities.
The amount of pressure put on the Governor to recruit top globally competitive companies shifted the debate in the most postive way I’ve seen in the LGBT community. We’re out there recruiting companies that are far more progressive than governments. It’s that impression that got the Governor’s attention.
That connects LGBT issues to the primary issue of job creation and development and showing many of the companies Virginia is an solid corporate environment. I thought that was the most effective thing. We should thank the Attorney General.
Ryer: The arrival of the Tea Party in the Republican Party is good news. It has moved the party into a focus of economics and procedure, instead of the social policies it has focused on in the past fifteen years…I think as far as EV, the closer you get to focusing on things with an economic impact, the further you’ll get. That’s what drives a lot of legislators. They’re not looking to distinguish Virginia separate from the business world.
For about 15 years of polling, for people self-identifying as LGBT, about 24% hit the lever for Republican. This election cycle, it hit over 30% – that’s what gets you a seat at the table. There has been a lot of action on the Republican side to inject themselves to influence policy. These aren’t things that happen overnight.
Mills: I think this is a systemic failure of the Republican Party – I think the anti-gay rhetoric coming from the far right has made a significant impact on Republicans. When we’re at the point of applauding the Governor for agreeing with his Commander in Cheif (regarding Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)- it’s extremely isolating.
I think from the EV perspective, you do a good job of getting into the mix and volunteering, contributing. I know a great deal of Republicans that are friends and feel the same way about the equality movement – they just aren’t elected officials. I think there’s just a crust to break there. It would make EV’s job a lot easier. Or we could do it the super-easy way and elect more Democrats.
Moderator: What’s the one piece of advice for EV this year? What would help people vote in our favor?
Mills: I would recommend focus. These (district) elections are 7,000 or 8,000 votes – so the key is focus. You can’t have a forty district strategy at EV when there are some real swing areas in the state. In 2008, Fairfax County votes Obama. A year later, Fairfax goes for McDonnell. When we focus on an area, you can focus on the outcome in a dramatic way…
Ryer: Act and not talk – if you want to influence politics, stuff envelopes, do the work, and run yourself. Don’t be concerned with the big glorious offices. Go work for a local delegate, supervisor, and become somebody important to them. Then you start influencing and making a difference. Don’t be afraid of public office. It’s tough finding quality candidates right now. The other thing is to integrate, it’s great when you move on mass, but it’s greater when you’re part of a larger crowd or community.
Holsworth: Put every candidate on record in each region including candidates of both parties. You’re not going to win in some districts if you don’t take a pledge about equality and tolerance.
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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