OutStanding Virginians: Gregg Smith
This is the Fourth in our series of interviews profiling Equality Virginia’s 2013 OUTStanding Virginians. The nominees will be recognized at EV’s 2013 Commonwealth Dinner on April 6th. You can find more information about the event here.
Gregg Smith is a certified financial planner and franchise owner who has been involved in local HIV-AIDs services and pride events since the early 90s. After discharging from the Navy due to his sexuality, Smith has made bringing equality to the military one of his top priorities, specifically supporting the Servicemembers’ Legal Defense Network campaign to repeal “Don’t ask don’t tell” policies. Now with a position at the financial planning company Ameriprise, Smith has developed seminars and workshops for clients in same-sex partnerships. His other personal investments include, Equality Virginia, the Human Rights Campaign Fund, and hosting and participating in many local LGBT fundraisers and organizations.
1 – How does it feel to be nominated for Equality Virginia’s Outstanding Virginian? How did you react when you found out you were nominated?
My overwhelming feeling was that I was humbled. I was humbled that the org thought enough of my work over the years to give me an honor and to be included among the other 6 people nominated and those who’ve come before me.
2 – Is there one particular action or step you made that you think made the largest impact for the community?
There were a number of things over years that I think caused the nomination, specifically getting a fair amount of work after I discharged to help repeal Don’t ask don’t tell (it wasn’t don’t ask don’t tell at the time) and to bring equality to the military. I’ve also been involved with the Aids service organization since the early 90s, both in a work capacity and supporting through donating and fundraising.
3 – Are Equality events like this important in VA?
I thought about moving to Maryland, I thought about moving to DC but I’m here in Virginia and this is where my home is, my friends, my business, and everything else. I think it’s a fight worth fighting. We have to keep it going until we all have equal rights.
4 – What do you hope will happen in VA within the next 10 years for the LGBT community?
Do I think we’ll see gay marriage in Virginia in the next 5 years? I doubt it. We’ll probably be one of the last states, unfortunately, because of some of the attitudes that run rampant in the state. In fact, the state doesn’t even recognize domestic partnerships. There’s a growing activism towards changing that. The more people we can get on our side and the more lobbying we can do, eventually we can change some of that.
5 – And advice for young or up and coming members of the community that want to make waves (impacts)?
1. Things don’t happen overnight and 2. It happens because it’s all a collaborative and unified effort. Also be aware of what’s gone on before them. It’s not reinventing the wheel, its building on to things that people have already done and hopefully pushing that in the right direction.
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