Leaving Virginia Is Not An Option
This is not a commentary about equality, marriage, or family values. Instead, this is a reflection of outdated long-held attitudes and beliefs that can still deride an individual’s hopes and dreams of professional and personal achievements. In light of recent events one can’t help but wonder can anyone really ever achieve their personal and professional aspirations as a gay Virginian?
Early Tuesday morning, the General Assembly voted against the appointment of Richmond’s Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney, Tracy Thorne-Begland to sit on the State bench as a judge. A former naval aviator with more than 10 years of experience as a prosecutor, he enjoyed bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate committees before the final vote.
As it was debated in the Capitol Chambers you saw a different aspect of the issue unfold. Pioneered by a legislator who flagrantly sought the removal of Mr. Thorne-Begland’s name from the block of judge nominees based solely on his sexual orientation; one couldn’t help but think of another so-called “blood sport.” The “blood sport” of bull fighting where a matador hooks and slaughters the unsuspecting bull as it fights to survive all as the crowd cheers on the pandemonium.
Okay, maybe that’s overly dramatic, but is it? There was bipartisan support prior to the vote, but Victoria Cobb and the Family Foundation hijacked the votes of the ultra-conservatives. They cheered from the sidelines for the public humiliation against the appointment of an openly gay man to serve as a judge and managed to successfully derail his nomination. This is yet another obstacle for a gay individual to pursue their professional and personal goals. The lesson that is easy to take away from the Thorne-Begland debacle is that no matter how hard you work, or how good a citizen you are, or how much you accomplish in life, you will never really amount to anything in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Virginia if you are gay.
However, like the matador luring the bull into the arena only to be demonized, the efforts of others to erode the professional and personal pursuits of gay individuals has become a national sport with its very own cheering fans.
Instead of being confined to an arena it is pervasive in our laws and social attitudes nationwide, and as a result it is not just gay Virginians who suffer. All we have to do is look to one of our southern neighbors, North Carolina. Their recent vote to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into their state constitution supports the notion of publicly denigrating gay individuals by limiting the achievement of their dreams of a legally recognized family.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma former Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth was nominated to serve on the state Election Board by Republican Governor Mary Fallin, but the nomination was DOA. Oklahoma’s Republican leadership in the state’s Senate refused to even consider the nomination because Mr. Roth is an openly gay man.
These are only three recent examples, but there are countless more that have and will occur in every corner of our nation. The attempts and strident battles to thwart the achievement of goals by gay individuals are omnipresent and inescapable. There is no where to go, but more importantly Virginia is our home and leaving is not an option.
We stay in Virginia for the same reason towns rebuild after a devastating natural disaster; for the promise of a better tomorrow. This is where we have made a lifetime of memories, laughed with friends, and raised our families. We still want to believe our best days are yet to come and our children will one day live in a more caring and understanding world. I can only hope that the day comes soon when we can truly move past bigotry, hatred, and the fear that others possess in order for all to achieve whatever greatness awaits us. Yes, even in Virginia.
Peter J. Goldin is a graduate of the University of Richmond and The Catholic University Columbus School of Law, and is currently Vice-Chair of Equality Virginia. Peter legally married his husband Brian in California. The couple resides in Old Church, VA.
All anybody wants is a nice safe place to pee, no matter what gender they identify with.April 25, 2016
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