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LGBTQ Activists Gather at Hanover Court House To Witness for Love

"No church that doesn’t agree with the law is going to be forced to perform marriages. So, let it go.”

EmilieVonUnwerth | May 1, 2014

Members of the RVA LGBTQ community joined People of Faith for Equality in Virginia(POFEV) in front of the Hanover County Courthouse this afternoon in support of marriage and tax equality.

Rev. Robin Gorsline, Executive Director at POFEV, a group that seeks to achieve equal rights for LGBTQ Virginians, outlined the day’s agenda: prayer, blessing of the courthouse “so that it can become a place where are couples can come and apply for marriage licenses,” and play and sing some songs.

Rev. Cheryl Owen-Watson of Centenary United Methodist Church led the group in prayer to open the demonstration. “We witness for the love of couples, all couples,” she said. “Today, especially for the love of couples who do not have equality in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Gorsline pointed out that May 1st is the last day to file state taxes in Virginia, which also makes it a “tax discrimination day” among LGBTQ couples.

“Today is the day, officially when gay couples and lesbian couples who are married in other parts of the country – legally married – pay a penalty for living in Virginia, because they cannot file [their state and federal taxes] jointly,” said Rev. Gorsline. “Today is tax discrimination day in Virginia.”

Shared property tax breaks are a big issue for many LGBTQ couples living in Virginia because the federal government requires them to be filed jointly while the state doesn’t recognize the union, and requires them to file separately.

“We have couples who live in Virginia, earn money in Virginia, spend money in Virginia, buy property together, yet they still aren’t able to file a joint Virginia tax form, so they don’t get the benefits of that because we still don’t have marriage equality, said Apryl Prentiss, Central Virginia Organizer for POFEV and Deputy Director for LGBTQ Issues for the Alliance of Progressive Values.

“People are always talking about how the gay community just wants the term marriage, but there are really all these other issues that come behind that, that are about marriage but aren’t directly related to it… for a lot of people in this group, marriage is important to us because it’s part of our moral fabric. We come from communities of faith, but it would also be great to be able to get that tax benefit that we spend in and earn in and that we build homes in.”

Rev. Gorsline also pointed to May Day’s romantic roots. “May Day has a lot of different connotations. One of those connotations is a celebration of love and new love,” he said. “May Day is a day of love, as well, so we’re here for that.”

The display at the Hanover County Court marks the 14th this year for People of Faith for Equality in Virginia.

“People talk about the tradition of marriage,” said Gorsline. Well, the tradition of marriage in Virginia is to make sure there’s some group that can’t marry! That’s the tradition of marriage in Virginia.”

Supporters then voiced their reasoning for protesting in front of the court house.

“[Same sex couples] should be able to raise their children in the way they best see fit to meet their needs. That we can have two parents on an adoption record,” said protestor Deena Ferguson.

“There’s absolutely no reason why anyone who wants to get married shouldn’t be able to get married. It’s a ridiculous law,” said protestor Peggy Sterling. “I often hear people [talking about] the ‘sanctity of marriage.’ Well, nobody’s making anybody marry somebody of the same sex… And no church that doesn’t agree with the law is going to be forced to perform marriages. So, let it go.”