Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney gathered with members of the city’s LGBTQ community sign a pledge supporting LGBTQ nondiscrimination in the city.
The pledge is part of the national group, Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination, and is a coalition of almost 230 municipal leaders from around the country who have all agreed to fight for the rights of sexual minorities when and where they can.
Specifics of the pledge include supporting inclusive nondiscrimination policies, LGBTQ training for police officers and prohibiting city funds from being used for non-essential travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws.
“We are One Richmond – a diverse, inclusive and welcoming city for all. We need to protect all of our residents, regardless of race, sex, color, creed, sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Stoney, who took office this year, in a statement sent after today’s signing ceremony. ”Our diversity is a strength, not a weakness, and the members of the LGBTQ community are a vital part of our thriving city. So we here in the City of Richmond will do everything we can to make sure our policies protect all our residents from discrimination, while offering the support they need to continue to contribute to our community.”
Stoney’s predecessor, Mayor Dwight Jones, had shown support for the LGBTQ community in the past, but had resisted some forms of equality like marriage equality for same sex couples. On the campaign trail, Stoney was open about his support for local LGBTQs and spoke with GayRVA about those concerns.
As far was what steps Stoney can take, LGBTQ advocates are excited to see what could be in store like a City Human Rights commission which helps elevate the voices of minority communities. A step like that could also increase Richmond’s Municipal Equality Index score, an annual survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, which has seen RVA consistently lose points year after year.
The state’s conservative General Assembly and its status as a Dillon Rule state make things a bit challenging in the long term, but Stoney said he was “proud to join other mayors across the country to sign this anti-discrimination pledge.”
The mayor has recently taken steps to increase the city’s LGBTQ profile by participating in a campaign to help Richmond win the British LGBT Awards for best tourism destination.
Among those in attendance today was Bill Harrison, President of Diversity Richmond, the city’s leading LGBTQ community group. He was excited to see so many LGBTQ folks in the mayor’s office, something he (and the Editor of GayRVA) thinks has never happened before.
“This is yet one more example of the outstanding support for our community from Mayor Stoney,” said Harrison. “We made history again this morning. We obviously have a stronger relationship with the Mayor’s office and city council than ever before.”
Richmond Police’s LGBTQ Liaison Captain Dan Minton was also in attendance for today’s signing. Minton, who took over the position last summer, has become a staple at community events from meetings to working directly with members on issues.
“The Richmond Police Department is committed to protecting and serving every member of our community, including the LGBTQ community,” said Captain Minton in a statement following today’s signing. He noted RPD has had implicit-bias training, which includes points about LGBTQ citizens, for officers for years so “they better understand how to interact with people from all walks of life.”
“The pledge signed by Mayor Stoney will serve as another support in the Department’s foundation of community policing,” he said.
Stoney was invited to sign the pledge by GayRVA’s Editor after Virginia Beach’s Mayor Will Sessoms joined the national movement last week surrounded by local LGBTQ advocates.
“It was important to me that I go on the record with my unwavering commitment to speak out against discrimination of any kind and to support friends and family members who are gay,” said Mayor Sessoms in an email sent to GayRVA after signing the pledge. “I’m proud to join other mayors from towns and cities across this country and hope the collective voice will be heard loud and clear.”