Legislators and all three heads of state gather in support of LGBTQ Virginians
Equality Virginia’s Day of Action ended in unusually high spirits after the death of a transgender bathroom bill gave reason to celebrate, and an unprecedented number of legislators and political leaders from across the commonwealth came out to celebrate with the 100+ event attendees.
“It was great to have so many EV supporters in Richmond yesterday to be present in opposition of HB 385 and HB 781,” said James Parish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia and Emcee for the night. “Defeating these harmful bills added to the celebratory energy at EV’s legislative reception.”
26 House members and Senators (top image) were in attendance, along side Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Governor Terry McAuliffe. (pictured below)
McAuliffe’s presence was particularly memorable as it was his 59th birthday and he was welcomed to the stage with a room-wide rendition of the birthday song.
He opened his speech with a surprisingly brutal story about his birth, saying he was born seven weeks early and declared three times.
“What a pretty little baby, too bad he’s dead,” McAuliffe joked. “But here I am, 59 years later, as the Governor of VA.”
There was a mix of shock and applause from the crowd – either way, it made for an interesting opening.
Afterword he thanked everyone for participating in the day’s lobbying events and acknowledged the work many of the delegates had done to help LGBTQ folks since he took office in 2014.
“We’ve made such progress in the commonwealth, think of where we are and where we were two years ago,” he said, remarking on improved economic conditions, increases in capital investment, and new state-funded projects he’d help bring to the Commonwealth. He said part of that success came from his first action as governor, signing an executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees from discrimination.
“We are open and welcoming to everyone,” he said.
AG Mark herring (pictured below), an LGBTQ ally in his own right who refused to defend the states ban on same-sex marriage, and wrote opinions supporting school boards enacting protections for LGBTQ students and teachers (among his many pro-LGBTQ moves) similarly acknowledged the advancement LGBTQ issues had experience in the last few years.
“It’s been a great time for everyone who understands the importance fair and equal treatment,” he said. “Equality and fairness are things that are guaranteed for all of us in the constitution.”
But he also said there was still much work to be done, from employment protections for public employees, to protections in housing and much more.
“People, including some in the legislature, are always trying to get creative at finding new ways to discriminate,” he said. “We have to constantly be on our guard and continue to work together. Equality is good for business and people and families.”
Last, but not least, was current Lt. Governor and the first announced candidates for the 2017 Gubernatorial election, Ralph Northam. (pictured below)
“Our government has done a wonderful job building a new economy,” he said. “We want to make sure we welcome everyone to Virginia and see our doors are always open… unfortunately theres still a lot of discrimination across this great commonwealth but we’ve got to work together to put it behind us.”
With heads held high, the 2016 Equality Virginia day of Action was truly a rare moment of celebration for Virginia’s LGBTQ’s, but we’re not quite done yet.
Two supportive Senate bills – one for house protections and one for workplace protections – are set to head to the House in the coming weeks. And at least one more anti-LGBTQ bill is set to be heard in a sub-committee tomorrow, Del. Todd Gilbert’s HB 773, a religious freedoms bill which would allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ’s without consequence. This bill is set to be heard tomorrow after session adjourns. GayRVA will be there, we hope to see you there too.
Dr. Sheppe was out to faculty and students and advocated for adding sexual orientation to the university’s non-discrimination policyMarch 28, 2017
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