Governor McAuliffe Honors Virginia LGBT Pride Month 2015
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe honored June as LGBT Pride month in a ceremony held at the Governor’s Mansion yesterday evening.
About 200 LGBTQ community members, politicians, cabinet members, allies, and even the Governor’s family, were in attendance.
“Tonight is a night of celebration. We’re kicking off pride month here in the Commonwealth of Virginia” said the Governor to resounding cries as he introduced the audience and his 2015 LGBT Pride Month Proclamation.
“We need Virginia to be open and welcoming to everyone. I put all of this in the context that [Virginia] has got to be a great state to raise a family and start a business,” said McAuliffe who has said LGBTQ equality in the Commonwealth is key to keeping the state business friendly.
McAuliffe had been a vocal ally while campaigning, and since his inauguration, he’s managed a number of firsts when it comes to LGBTQ issues – his 2014 Pride Proclamation was the first time a VA governor had honored the month, he was the first standing Governor to speak at Virginia Pride last year.
He’s taken numerous other supportive steps as well, like signing laws protecting LGBT state employees, and backing AG Mark Herring’s decision not to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“We’ve brought in billions of dollars in business. Why? Because we made Virginia open and welcoming to everyone.”
“Its more than symbolic for the Governor to recognize gay people in the diversity of Virginia,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), Virginia’s only openly-gay Senator. ”He does it not just once a year, in his speeches in all parts of the Commonwealth when he mentions making a welcoming environment – and its nice to see him make the governor’s mansion itself a particularly welcoming environment.”
Ebbin (pictured above) has been out in office since he was first elected in 2003, and he said seeing so many LGBTQ folks in the Governor’s mansion was a welcome site.
“With Marriage equality, we’ve come very far very quickly,” said Ebbin. “We’ve had a lot of elected officials come along and its nice to see Gov. McAuliffe do it very genuinely, starting with his campaign, and continuing with his efforts to lure businesses to Virginia.”
Community members from across the LGBTQ spectrum were thrilled to be invited to the event – one which Equality Virginia’s Executive Director James Parrish said he could never have imagined happening under previous administrations.
(top image from left – McAuliffe’s wife Dorothy, PArrish, Gov. McAuliffe, & Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney)
“Leadership like this has given our community a way to lead forward.” said Parrish. He was noticeably excited to be there, and spoke to the crowd along side the Governor during the event’s welcome.
“There’s still a lot of work to do…18 months ago, no one at the Governor’s office or Attorney General’s office would take our calls – flash forward to today and we’re holding meetings in their office monthly.”
Last year was the first year McAuliffe, or any Virginia Governor, celebrated LGBT Pride Month. Local event organizer and activist Ayana Obika attended the 2014 event, and noticed a number of differences this time around – mainly the number of women and people of color who were in attendance.
“It makes me feel like someone did the work and really took an effort to reach out,” Obika said, admiting last years event had room for improvement. “The first year you kind of do it, and you figure it our, but I’m glad it’s being done and I’m glad I’m in Virginia.”
The event kept most attendees in high spirits, and one stand out who was smiles ear-to-ear came all the way from Harrisonburg: Ms. Bianca Star – Mrs. Gay Virginia America, Ms. Southeast Regional USA, and city-wide rep for the Harrisonburg/Shenandoah area (AKA Ryan Dickinson.)
Star (pictured below) was the first female impersonator to be in the Governor’s Mansion, and was mentioned by name by the governor during the event’s introduction.
“I’m so honored and so humbled to be offered this opportunity. Not only in my community, but as a public icon. Representing Virginia, representing the city of Harrisonburg, the city I grew up in,” Star said. “Who would have know 10 years ago, I would be having dinner with the governor, his dogs and his family, in full drag in crown regalia. This is an incredible step for our state and for our country.”
For those in attendance, the Governor’s office said photos taken at events are usually posted before the end of the week on the Gubernatorial Flikr account. GayRVA will announce when those photos become available to the public.
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