From national protests to grassroots activism, EV’s Day of Action connects local LGBTQ advocates and citizens with legislators on 2/7
Equality Virginia is holding their annual Day of Action, an event for LGBTQ and ally constituents to meet with legislators and discuss bills that affect the LGBT community. The day involves meeting with legislators, workshops led by fellow activists and top attorneys, and a legislative reception, in which the community is able to meet with legislators that support LGBT causes.
James Parrish, Executive Director for Virginia Equality, said that the Day of Action is a great opportunity to bring sexual minority citizens to Richmond to educate them on current legislation. It’s a rare chance to also to speak with legislators regarding the issues that concern their community.
Parrish expects there yo be three priority bills next week; Two the group supports, SB 783 and SB 822, prohibit discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity in public employment and housing practices respectively, and one they do not support, HB 2025, vaguely worded anti-same sex marriage bill, is one that Equality Virginia vehemently opposes.
“It offers a broad religious exemption to discriminate based on a person’s definition of marriage,” Parrish said of HB2025.
Parrish has been with Equality Virginia since 2009 and has seen the positive impact that LGBT citizens have had on the legislators at large. In 2016, The Day of Action assisted in the defeat of nine anti-LGBT bills, and the organization is hoping to have similar results this year.
“I have seen the long efforts of many advocates over decades come to fruition,” he said. “We have reached the point of changing hearts and minds.”
According to Parrish, opponents introducing discriminatory legislation have changed their tactics, focusing less on marriage and more on faith-based exemptions.
“What we’ve seen is unnecessary religious exemptions,” Parrish said. “[They] put forth bills that are creating these licenses to discriminate in housing, in workplace, in public works.”
Geneva Perry, President of the Hampton Roads Business OutReach, or HRBOR, said that they have chartered a bus that will bring representatives and residents of the area to the Day of Action to speak with their legislators.
“We believe strongly that people should be informed about and informing their collective representatives about their feelings regarding LGBT inclusion,” she said.
One of the goals of HRBOR is to empower and support community businesses and professionals to create a more inclusive and welcoming community for the LGBT community. They are one of multiple organizations who have co-sponsored the Day of Action.
“We are taking a larger bus and bringing more people than we have in previous years,” she said. “We are just excited that we have the opportunity to go up and speak to the representatives.”
HRBOR has participated in past Day of Action events. But, Perry said that continued community participation in local governance in the face of the upcoming administration is crucial.
“My concern about the political climate at the federal level is that it gives people, elected persons and sometimes just individuals, a feeling of entitlement to be hateful and ugly to groups,” she said.
When asked about the effects of the new presidential administration, Perry voiced her concerns about how the overall attitude may shift against the LGBT community.
“I think the culture of hostility, open hostility, towards marginalized groups is scary for people who are from those groups,” Perry said. “We have to really be vigilant and advocate on the state level.”
Stacie Walls-Beegle, the Executive Director of Access Aids Care and The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads, which provides services to people with HIV/AIDS and the entire LGBT community, is looking forward to once again supporting an event that she and her organization have supported and participated in for years.
“For years we have brought a van with clients and staff to the Day of Action,” she said.
Walls-Beegle has seen a change over the years in regards to legislators reaching out to their LGBT constituents regarding issues in their community.
“What I’ve seen over the years is much more attention with interacting directly with the people that are supporting them,” she said, referring to the legislators. “We appreciate the fact that our elected officials are reaching out and getting feedback early on.”
Walls-Beegle explained that the people she serves are most concerned with the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act. She stated that her organization has assisted 200 new people with enrolling in ACA in just the last few months.
“We do have people who have pre-existing conditions who have difficulty accessing care,” she said. “We have seen people lives be saved because they have had insurance that they did not have prior to the Affordable Care Act.”
Parrish stated that many of the executive orders that former President Obama put in place to protect the LGBT community are possibly at stake.
“There’s a lot of Virginians that can be affected negatively by Trump erasing those protections that the Obama administration put in,” he said.
When it comes down to it, becoming involved in local politics is key, Walls-Beegle pointed out.
“You can be a loud activist, you can be a quiet activist,” Walls-Beegle said. “You just find like-minded people, you work with them, you develop a message, and there’s something to be said of force in numbers.”
Equality Virginia’s Day of Action occurs on February 7th at the Library of Virginia, starting at 8:30am meetings with legislators and culminating in the 5:30pm Legislative Reception. Information on how to register can be found at their website.
Top image via Equality Virginia of 2016′s Day of Action
“I’m not letting his misogyny define me, define my daughter or define my community.”April 21, 2017
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