VA Beach mayor pledges LGBTQ support as part of national mayoral campaign
A bipartisan group of civic leaders across the country are looking to build support for LGBTQ folks in their cities, and three Virginia mayors have signed on so far – most recently, VA Beach Mayor Will Sessoms.
“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.”
The group, Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination, is a coalition of almost 230 municipal leaders from around the country.
They utilize local LGBTQ support centers, in this case the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads, to act as messengers to local officials, hoping to get them to “sign on” to take steps like supporting LGBTQ protections at the city level, prohibiting non-essential travel to anti-LGBTQ states, and encouraging LGBTQ-inclusive training for police departments. In a meeting yesterday, Mayor Sessoms became the first Mayor in Hampton Roads, and the third in Virginia, to sign onto the pledge.
Sessoms said he was proud to have much of the pledge’s requests already checked off – VA Beach started one of the nation’s first municipal Human Rights Commissions back in 1991. Sessoms said the city added “sexual orientation” to the list protected classes in employment in 2005 and, in 2015, added “gender identity” to the list as well. A little less than a year ago, VA Beach Police Department created their first LGBTQ Liaison officer who aims to support sexual minorities in their interactions with police.
“I’m committed to keeping Virginia Beach a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community,” the Mayor said.
“Our Hampton Roads community is better and stronger for everyone when all individuals have the freedom to earn a living, secure housing, and be served by a business or government office without the threat of discrimination,” said Stacie Walls-Beegle, Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads. ”We know that equal, fair treatment under the law is good for business, good for tourism, and good for individuals living in the Hampton Roads region.”
“We must learn from the lessons of neighboring North Carolina, where hundreds of business leaders, investors, state and local governments, and athletic associations have left or publicly stated that they will not expand business there,” she said.
Sessoms’ signature is the first in an effort to get leaders in every part of the Seven Cities area to sign on to the pledge.
Efforts are also underway to get Richmond Mayor Levar Stony to sign on – an informal email sent to his office was returned with “Don’t see why we wouldn’t join” and a promise to run the idea “up the flag pole.”
GayRVA will follow up if and when Stony agrees to sign.
“We want to do it again,” Sachar-Milosvich said, “but in a bigger venue.”February 3, 2017
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