RVA City Council Declares June LGBT Pride Month
Parker Agelasto and Charles Samuels proclaim June LGBT Pride mont, members of the RVA LGBT community are there to receive the notice.
Richmond Va.— On May 28, the Richmond City Council recognized June as the LGBT pride month for the third consecutive year. Charles Samuels, president of the city council, and Parker Agelasto, fifth district representative, presented the award at city hall and Bill Harrison received it along with fellow members of the Richmond Gay Community Foundation.
June is nationally recognized as gay pride month, and Richmond is jumping on the bandwagon and celebrating the sexuality spectrum. “The idea of being all-inclusive means articulating that desire. Regardless of age or race or sexuality or religion” said Samuels. While June is the national month of pride, festivities will be held in Richmond in September, along with another proclamation from the Richmond City Council.
Bill Harrison is the president of the Richmond Gay Community Foundation, and he was excited to be part of this advancement. “Normally, the proclamation is just delivered to us,” said Harrison. “This is the first time we have appeared at a city council meeting to accept it and to thank them.” This public recognition is important because it raises awareness and brings the issue to light. “People who are against complete civil rights for our community are on the losing side, and they know that,” stated Harrison.
Harrison, Samuels, and Agelasto have other advancements they are working on in Richmond. They are working together to make discrimination in the work place based on sexual orientation or gender identity illegal. “Politicians get a lot of criticism, but when they do good things for our community we need to take the time to thank them,” said Harrison. “They don’t have to do this, and it’s really courageous of them even in this day and age.”
Each year, the Human Rights Campaign assigns points to cities all over the country based on a Municipal Equality Index (MEI). The index is the first nationwide evaluation of municipal laws affecting the LGBT community. Last year Richmond came in last place for Virginia, with 15 out of 100 points. Since then, Samuels met with the HRC, and was able to bump Richmond up a few points. He said about the raise in points that “It’s not in print, but it feels like a win.”
This year, Samuels and his colleagues were able to get Richmond placed third in the state of Virginia. “We are trying to do things that show that we want people to feel welcomed here and feel comfortable here,” said Samuels. Some of the advancements that Samuels wishes to make are simply “pipe dreams” due to the Dillion Rule, which restricts the power that local government has. By acknowledging June as Gay Pride month, Samuels hopes to “let everybody know that Richmond is an open and tolerant place.”
“Richmond is a diverse community, and we want to recognize and celebrate the diversity,” said Agelasto. While many people are doing their best to celebrate different sexual orientations and gender identities* by giving this proclamation, it won’t actually change much in Richmond. “The challenge with the proclamation is that it doesn’t do anything legally,” Agelasto stated. “It doesn’t change the status of anything for anybody in the state of Virginia or in the city of Richmond.” This is a disappointing fact to hear, but opinions and decisions are at least moving in the correct direction. Agelasto encourages gay people to “contact us if there is anything that happens,” and reminds the community “We are doing more to make sure it is all-inclusive.”
The meeting tonight gave hope to the fact that LGBT people should be as welcome in Richmond as anyone else is.
*edits made 6/10/13
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