Local Activists Turn Out For Equality Virginia’s Lobby Day
Equality Virginia’s executive director James Parrish (center) recognizes lawmakers at an evening reception on Tuesday.
An estimated 75 people turned out for LGBT rights group Equality Virginia’s annual Lobby Day Tuesday. The morning portion of the event began with members lobbying lawmakers from the Virginia General Assembly on LGBT-related legislation.
The lobbying was followed by a series of workshops on various topics and a legislative reception in the early evening.
Roland Winston articulated some of the event’s top lobbying priorities. “Most of what we’re addressing is equality in employment,” said Winston, the executive director of LGBT rights group Mothers and Others. “We [also] don’t want discrimination in adoption… there are two bills that have been submitted to ensure that religious institutions do not ever have to place children with gay people, and we’re opposed to those.” Winston said Equality Virginia was also there to lobby for Sen. Adam Ebbin’s bill banning adoption discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Jasper Hendricks, the openly gay chair of the Appomattox Democratic Committee, said that some of the legislators he lobbied seemed surprised to meet him. “State Senator [Tom] Garrett told me that, by looking at me and by talking to me, [he] didn’t get that I was gay,” said Hendricks. “And that’s why it’s important to have different voices on the issues, because it helps to put the biases aside.”
Rebecca Voskeritchian, who has spina bifida, said that her disability made her want to lobby against what she called “double discrimination”. “Having the [legislation forbidding] workplace discrimination go through would be important to me,” said Voskeritchian, a Master’s student at Virginia Commonwealth University, “because then that’s one less [type of] discrimination that I would have to deal with.”
See photos from EV’s Legislative Reception Below
One Virginia mother said she had a personal stake in the struggle for LGBT rights. The mother, who asked that her name not be used, said she was there on behalf of her transgender child. “I came today for the first time to lobby,” she said. “It’s a great experience. I’m not very political, I guess…I just kind of talked from my mother’s perspective of a young transgender child.”
Rev. Robin Gorsline said that while he supported the aforementioned legislation, he was also lobbying on behalf of HB115, the “Solemnization of Marriage Act”. “[HB115] is a bill to allow religious leaders and others in congregations to marry people even if the marriage is not recognized legally by the commonwealth,” said Gorsline, the president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia. Rev. Gorsline, who later moderated a workshop on the subject of HB115, said that the current law infringed upon freedom of religion. “Currently we have a law that says if I as a pastor, or a priest or a rabbi stands up and says ‘I marry you’ to two women or two men, it is not a valid marriage, and I’m actually breaking the law.”
Other workshop topics included working towards safer schools for LGBT youth and messaging strategies for advancing LBTQ rights. In the latter session, Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish explained proper terminology pertaining to gay rights activism. Examples included using terminology like “sexual orientation” rather than “sexual preference” and simply “marriage” instead of “gay marriage”. “We all want the same thing,” Parrish explained. “When two older people want to get married, we don’t call it ‘elder marriage’…and there’s no such thing as ‘gay marriage’. We just want access to marriage.”
This was followed by a reception with state legislators in the Library of Virginia lobby. Legislators in attendance included Del Joe Morrisey, Sen. Adam Ebbin and Del. David Toscano.
“Equality Virginia cannot be successful at all if we don’t have people like [the attendees] involved,” Parrish said. “I can go down there every day and see every delegate, but I only vote for two of them, so that’s the only two who are going to listen to me….it does take everyone to make this happen.”
Zack Budryk, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, has been writing since age 10 working towards a career of advocacy-based investigative journalism.
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