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Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance Launches LGBTQ Hotline

July 17th, 2013


A new helpline launched by the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance will offer LGBTQ-informed support and advocacy services and can be reached free of charge at 1-866-356-6998 or by chat here 7 days a week, 24-hours a day.

The LGBTQ Partner Abuse & Sexual Assault Helpline is part of the Richmond Area Partnership to Enhance Services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Survivors and Raise Awareness of Violence in LGBTQ Communities (RAP). RAP is a collaborative project between the Action Alliance, Virginia Anti-Violence Project, Southerners on New Ground (SONG). Safe Harbor, ROSMY, the Gay Community Center of Richmond, and the Health Brigade.

LGBTQ Virginians are significantly impacted by sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and hate- motivated violence. The State of Violence in LGBTQ Communities of Virginia Report (2008) by the Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) finds:

  • 41% of respondents had been in an abusive relationship at some time in their lives.
  • 30% had been stalked;
  • 36% experienced sexual violence as children or youth (17 and younger);
  • 26% experienced sexual violence as an adult.

Twenty seven percent (27%) of respondents to the Transgender Health Initiative Study (2007) by the Virginia Department of Health experienced sexual violence2.

The VAVP report indicates LGBTQ Virginians do not feel that supportive services are readily accessible; 84% of respondents thought that domestic violence agencies primarily serve heterosexual non-transgender women. Eighty-four percent (84%) of respondents also agreed that they would feel comfortable calling an LGBTQ specific hotline for services. This is especially important considering 92% of respondents believe that LGBTQ people might not access services because they would not want to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to the service provider.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance

OUTstanding Virginians 2019

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance

Grassroots Community, Nonpartisan Political Education, Community Service

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance

What’s in a name? In the case of the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), the answer is “more than meets the eye.”  First of all, the organization’s geographic outreach extends beyond Arlington to include all of Northern Virginia. Second, AGLA today is an inclusive, grassroots organization open to all LGBTQ people and allies, providing social events, nonpartisan political education, and community service in partnership with civic groups and local governments.

Yet AGLA is the same name the alliance has had since the 1990s. Holding onto the name – as well as keeping the original organizational structure and core mission – is an act of homage. To honor the group’s past while expanding its reach is to celebrate four decades of progress in the struggle for equality.

The social and political landscape has changed significantly since 1981 when the organization began as the Arlington chapter of the Virginia Gay Alliance, one of the pioneering state-level gay rights groups. At that time, it was focused on the very basics of visibility and equal rights, such as getting openly gay men and lesbians appointed to county advisory boards and ending the arrest of gay men in sting operations at county public restrooms.  At the same time, AGLA began to host candidate forums in an attempt to acquaint candidates with the gay and lesbian community’s concerns while showing the community where the candidates stood on the issues.  Few people running for office would agree to speak to an openly gay audience and virtually all who did speak represented the Democratic Party.

Cut to today. As a non-profit organization engaged in voter education, AGLA is conscious of the need to fairly represent all political viewpoints. “We make sure all parties are invited,” says President Bruce Hightower. That care is reciprocated by participation and respect from candidates of all political persuasions.

AGLA’s path from the limited advocacy of the early days to today’s broad scope of influence and inclusion includes many important milestones.

In 1992, AGLA succeeded in getting an enforcement provision added to the Arlington Human Rights Ordinance, which included sexual orientation as a protected category, but lacked penalties for non-compliance. Since then, the Human Rights Commission has investigated and won cases for gay men and lesbians who have been discriminated against and the county’s power to outlaw discrimination against gay men and lesbians has not been challenged in court.

Similarly, in the early nineties, AGLA began making efforts to launch community service projects in conjunction with straight, community based organizations. These have included joining the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, exhibiting at the family-oriented Arlington County Fair, and fundraising for charities like the Epileptic Foundation of Virginia and the Arlington Food Bank.   This community service approach builds political support for AGLA and educates straight Arlingtonians about gays and lesbians while also helping the entire community.

Working with Arlington County board members, AGLA was successful in 1997 in securing partner benefits for gay and lesbian county employees, a first in Virginia. The policy was ultimately voided by legal action, yet the effectiveness of AGLA’s community service approach was demonstrated by overwhelming support for the measure by Arlington residents and the county government.

In 2000, AGLA established the AGLA College Scholarship Fund which awards annually to graduating Arlington high school seniors who are members of their Gay Straight Alliance and/or made an exceptional contribution to the school system’s policies of openness, diversity, and safety.

AGLA would expand its work by energizing and fostering other non-profit organizations. In 2002, AGLA helped spawn Fairfax Gay and Lesbian Organizing Project (FGLOP), now known as Equality Fairfax. In 2003, AGLA and Equality Fairfax began helping Loudoun County LGBT leaders form the Loudoun Equality Action Project, now known as Equality Loudoun.

Today, AGLA thrives with a wide variety of activities for members. It serves as a local go-to resource for the media, local elected officials, and candidates in areas like workplace protections and marriage rights. AGLA also serves as a conduit for collaboration with such nonprofits as the Imperial Court of Washington, DC, Gay Men’s Health Collaborative, PFLAG, and Northern Virginia Pride.

Since becoming president in 2016, Bruce Hightower has focused on balancing and integrating the three parts of AGLA’s mission: celebration, education, and advocacy. Notable recent celebrations include a 35th anniversary party in 2016 with transgender student activist Gavin Grimm as the keynote speaker and a diversity awards program in 2018. In the area of education, AGLA has launched seminars on LGBTQ senior issues and transgender issues at community centers in Arlington and Alexandria. Meanwhile, the organization is ramping up programs in large metropolitan areas like Falls Church and Fairfax. “We’re spreading our wings,” Bruce says. His ultimate aim is for AGLA “to be the first group policy makers go to when they want to know how the LGBTQ community can best be served.”

Bill Harrison

OUTstanding Virginians 2019

Bill Harrison

Activist, Local Legend

Bill Harrison

Like Diversity Richmond, the organization he leads, Bill Harrison is legendary in Central Virginia. He has left his mark after almost 40 years in areas from public relations to philanthropy, changing minds and bettering lives with every role he’s held. He was one of the first to challenge homophobia in the Richmond media and was on the front lines in the community’s response to the AIDS crisis and the broader fight for visibility. He built the region’s only LGBTQ community center into one of the state’s leading support systems. In the process, he has received many accolades, including the Virginia Center of Inclusive Communities’ Humanitarian of the Year recognition and the ROSMY Catalyst Award.

Given his track record of courage and leadership, it’s a surprise to hear him describe his journey as “pretty typical for an older white gay man in Virginia.” Yet in one sense the journey is all too typical: it begins in shame and isolation.  When he was 19, his boss figured out Bill’s homosexuality and fired him on the grounds of his “morals” after first informing Bill’s parents. After an attempt at psychiatric “conversion,” Bill followed the pattern of many young gay men at the time: “put your sexual orientation in the back of your mind and hope to live out your life that way.” He got married, but the marriage dissolved after two years. The reason why got back to his hometown of Emporia. “People literally turned their backs when they saw me.”

Looking back on how alone he felt, he can’t help wishing he had had the resources available to youth today. “I am such a great fan of Side by Side,” he says. “If I had had their toll-free number back then, I would have been at a pay phone three nights a week, holding onto that light at the end of the tunnel.”

Things got better after he was out. Bill started to return to Emporia more often. “I decided they’re not going to take my family from me,” he says. His straight friends from childhood began to stand by him, and over time he realized he was not the only gay or lesbian person ever to come out of his hometown.

Soon Bill set about trying to influence the world around him. He wrote letters to the editor of the Richmond News Leader, which took strong anti-gay positions. Fortunately, one thing he didn’t have to worry about this time was alienating his family. “My parents never left my side,” says Bill, “even when all the neighbors read the op-eds.”

Seeking fellowship and acceptance, Bill joined Dignity Integrity, a Catholic and Episcopal organization for gay and lesbian people. It was one of the few friendly spaces in Richmond in the 1970s. “Other than that, the bar was it,” says Bill. The group met at a Catholic church with Bill as president until, as he puts it, “we were kicked out when word of our good works got around.”

Bill was building his career in public relations when the AIDS epidemic hit. When the newly formed Richmond AIDS Information Network (now Health Brigade) posted an opening in marketing and media, Bill saw a chance to combine his professional life with his activism. “I had to get the job,” he recalls. Bill got the job and found the organized grass-roots response to the crisis inspiring. “What a privilege it was to be there and watch our community respond,” he says. “We became family with complete strangers, building programs and creating services for ourselves even when other institutions turned their backs.”

The tactic that Bill used to ensure the broadest support possible for LGBTQ rights was to make LGBTQ people familiar and visible, as exemplified by the late Guy Kinman’s billboard proclaiming “Someone You Love Is Gay.” Bill regards this tactic as so successful that it has permanently changed Virginia’s political climate. “Now we regularly see elected officials advocating for us even when they don’t have to,” he says. In recognition of the power of being out and visible, Bill established Diversity Richmond’s annual Guy Kinman Award in 2018.

Bill also recognizes areas where the movement has fallen short. “We need to work on justice for both transgender people and people of color. With transgender justice, this must be a top priority. Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people enjoy privileges transgender people do not. Racial bias and white privilege are issues that demand serious, intentional conversations.” Diversity’s strategic plan calls for action on both fronts.

Bill recognizes that representation is a fraught issue that requires a degree of humility on the part of established institutions such as Diversity Richmond. Bill describes the need to “be quiet and listen; to ask, ‘As a white person, what do I really know?’” Bill reflects, “I am a work-in-progress with a long way to go.”

Mayor Levar Stoney

OUTstanding Virginians 2019


Mayor Levar Stoney

Progressive, Visionary, Leader

Mayor Levar Stoney

When you go to see Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in his City Hall office, look at the artwork on the walls – it tells a story. First you see a nice piece of seemingly abstract impressionism where multicolored letters start to “come out” from the busy background to spell VIRGINIA PRIDE. Then you see a framed Richmond Magazine cover from last August showing the beaming mayor in front of indie musician Lucy Dacus and Mecca Williams, a fashion trendsetter and mental health counselor. Together, the images present a pleasingly youthful image befitting the office of Richmond’s youngest-ever elected mayor.

It’s only after you listen to Mayor Stoney describe his vision for Richmond’s future that you understand how apt these images are.  Since taking office on the last day of 2016, he has devoted much energy and thought to attract young professionals, entrepreneurs, and artists to Richmond. His success in this area has been noticed on a national scale. Time Magazine recently named Richmond the #2 Top Place Millennials are Moving.

According to Mayor Stoney, the key to success with this demographic is to cultivate an ethos of inclusion throughout the community. “I really believe we must create a place where you can feel welcome no matter how much money you have, who you love, or who you pray to,” he says. Citing his magazine cover-mate’s decision to make her native city the home base for an international music career, he says, “People like Lucy Dacus are attracted by the fact that we are not static—we have a progressive culture.” To Mayor Stoney, boosting the city’s attractiveness does not come down to politics. “Richmond has long voted in a progressive manner,” he points out, “but we need to live in a progressive manner.”

Living in a progressive manner includes at its very center taking care of and celebrating the LGBTQ community.  This has been a core belief since the mayor’s college days at James Madison University, where as student body president he proposed adding protections for sexual orientation to the student Bill of Rights.  “I thought there would be pushback from the administration,” he says, but there was none, and the antidiscrimination language was added to the student handbook.

As Secretary of the Commonwealth in Governor Terry McAuliffe’s cabinet, he made LGBTQ tourism a priority for promoting economic growth. As Richmond’s new top executive, Mayor Stoney saw opportunities to improve the lives of LGBTQ residents and city employees. “I said OK, Richmond, we have to expect more than tolerance,” he says, “we should expect justice for everyone.”  Some of his measures were symbolic, like flying Pride flags at Brown’s Island and the downtown train station. Others were policy enhancements, such as working with City Council to establish a Human Rights Commission and non-discrimination laws, designating a policy advisor to serve as the Mayor’s LGBTQ+ liaison, and offering transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees.

These efforts did not go unnoticed. Before Mayor Stoney took office, Richmond’s score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI), which measures a locality’s responsiveness to the LGBTQ+ community, was 46 out of 100.  Mayor Stoney remembers learning about the score in 2017 and feeling challenged to put major changes in place. He told his team, “We’ve got to do better; to be competitive in the New South we must lean into inclusivity.” Within a year Richmond was able to increase its score to 94 – the highest MEI score in Virginia—and was named an MEI All-Star city for “boldly leading the way toward LGBTQ+ equality.”

Mayor Stoney hopes the transformation in Richmond will be used as a model throughout the state. “If not at the capital then where else?” he asks. “Shouldn’t we be taking the lead?” This is one of the reasons why he goes out of his way to celebrate the business, artistic and cultural achievements of the local LGBTQ community. “It’s not about being Top Ten for folks to visit; it’s being Top Ten for those who live here. How welcoming are we to our own residents?”

Mayor Stoney sees opportunities and challenges ahead in the area of intersectionality, where multiple identities react to each other. “I always want to see new faces added to the table, in political leadership as well as our social lives,” he says.

Mayor Stoney’s actions on behalf of LGBTQ Richmonders are often personal and go well beyond the duties of his office. He is a regular participant in Pride Fest and Equality Virginia events. “I love the diversity of community you see in Richmond,” he says, “allies, friends, neighbors all together.” His very first act as mayor—performed at midnight right after being sworn in—was to preside over the marriage of two friends, Johnny Maher and Drew Thomasson. “It was a beautiful ceremony,” Mayor Stoney recalls. “Since then, I’ve done four same-sex weddings, all close friends of mine.”

One of his most treasured moments as mayor took place last November, when he received Diversity Richmond’s inaugural Guy Kinman Jr. Leadership Award for “courageous leadership that’s produced significant, positive change for the LGBTQ  community.” A year earlier, Mayor Stoney had celebrated the gay civil rights icon’s 100th birthday with a mayoral resolution declaring the day Guy Kinman Day. Now it was the mayor’s turn to receive a surprise honor. He didn’t see it coming. “You guys got me,” he said.

Community Education Program

Community Education Program

Through our Community Education Program, we are preparing transgender individuals, families, and allies to share their stories to make an impact on nondiscrimination legislation. 

Storytelling Initiative

Many people do not realize that laws protecting Virginians on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation are currently nonexistent. Participants in the Community Education Program (CEP) share their stories of discrimination or support for nondiscrimination protections in housing and public employment. Stories grab people’s attention and make larger issues more personal. Advocates can also use these stories as examples of what to do and what not to do when showing support for their transgender friends, family, and neighbors.

Reports consistently show that the majority of Virginians support non-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people. Individual stories take that support one step further and personalize the positive impact these protections would have on their lives.  Not only do these stories educate, but they also help to build community. We want our storytellers feel strengthened and energized by this process. In sharing these stories, we hope that individuals are empowered to continue speaking out and inspire others to do the same.

Through the stories gathered in this program, we can strengthen the case for passing nondiscrimination bills in housing and public employment in Virginia. Nobody should have to live in fear of being fired or denied housing because of their gender identity.

Sharing Your Story

Equality Virginia works with transgender folks, their families, and allies to increase the visibility of personal stories that can make an impact on nondiscrimination policies. The stories shared can help us encourage legislators to create inclusive policies, allow media to tell authentic stories of transgender lives, and help trans people and allies develop connections important to our community.

Participants will work directly with a member of our team to find the best format for each personal story and determine how widely they would like their story to be shared. Some folks may want to speak directly with legislators while others may wish to remain anonymous. We appreciate any and all interest our supporters have in sharing their stories. We also acknowledge that it can take a serious act of courage to share personal truths. Thus, we will never share information without express permission. Our goal is a respectful distribution of the truths within our community.


Many people do not realize that there are currently no laws protecting Virginians on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. All people should be treated fairly and equally, which is why folks across the Commonwealth are publicly voicing their support for passing nondiscrimination bills in housing, employment, and public accommodations.  While over time, support has grown for gay and lesbian issues, many people are still learning about the lives and experiences of transgender people. One story at the time, we are helping build support and understanding for the identities and lives of Virginia’s transgender community.

Click here to read the stories of transgender people and allies in Virginia and how they are affected by the lack of legal protections.

LGBTQ + YOU: Info Session

From sexual orientation to gender identity, LGBTQ + You will explore terminology and hot-topic issues in a fun and interactive way, with ample time for a question and answer period.

We’ll wrap up with next steps you can take right now to build a more LGBT-friendly VA.

All are welcome! LGBTQ community members, allies, and folks with questions or interest in supporting the community are encouraged to attend.

2018 Equality Virginia Commonwealth Dinner


If you were one of the nearly 1,000 people who attended the 15th Annual Commonwealth Dinner on April 14th presented by Altria Group, thank you for being there to celebrate our victories, learn more about the challenges ahead, and honor our OUTstanding Virginians. EV’s staff and board felt the support of all who gathered with us! The evening would not have been possible without you.

This year’s Dinner served to showcase the vitality of Virginia’s LGBT community. Because of you, Equality Virginia raised almost $300,000 to help us safeguard equality’s momentum in the Commonwealth by standing up for LGBT Virginians at the General Assembly, furthering transgender visibility, and increasing pro-LGBT business participation. We broke records with our text-to-give portion of the evening raising more than $42,000. You can still help us grow that total and add your name to the virtual board. Just text EQVA to 243725 to give!

Keep reading to find out about all the exciting things that happened Saturday night. And check out the incredible photos from the evening on our Facebook photo album.

We celebrated LGBT affirming legislators and groundbreaking out candidates …

Each year at the Commonwealth Dinner it is an honor to welcome elected leaders from across the state who support equality. It was our pleasure this year to see numerous public officials, including US Congressmen Donald McEachin and Bobby Scott, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, and Governor Ralph Northam. With protections for LGBT Virginians in striking distance, we are grateful to have the bipartisan support of leaders from all over the Commonwealth. With your advocacy—and these affirming legislators—we will keep moving equality forward.

At the Dinner, Governor Ralph Northam spoke of the need for a welcoming and inclusive Virginia. We’re grateful to have had the support of Governor since his first day in office when he signed Executive Order 1 prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in state government.

2017 saw a record-breaking number of out LGBT candidates on the ballot for Virginia’s House of Delegates. At the Dinner, we took a moment to recognize them including the four out members of the House of Delegates: Dawn Adams, Mark Levine, Danica Roem, and Mark Sickles.



We recognized our OUTstanding Virginians …


Every year Equality Virginia shines a spotlight on those who have dedicated their lives to fighting for equality. The 2018 honorees have been on the front-lines for fairness, improving their communities and striving for a more inclusive Virginia. These individuals and organizations have educated, advocated, and demonstrated what it means to truly be an OUTstanding Virginian. Watch the video below to learn more about these OUTstanding Virginians!


We were inspired by a transgender veteran’s story …

Ann Murdoch, a member of our Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau, took the stage to share a journey of self-discovery, complete with a knight, terrible dragons, and triumphant princess. She likened the advocates and supporters of Equality Virginia to the great rainbow army that helped her defeat the dragons of shame and discrimination. We’ve all heard inspiring stories about a transgender person’s journey towards self-acceptance and happiness, but Ann’s unique perspective helped us shine a light on how transgender military bans impact our neighbors, friends, and loved ones right here in Virginia.



We gave a glimpse into our Day of Action …

Our 2018 Day of Action was on February 5 and gave attendees a chance to address issues important to them directly with their legislators and their staffs. We debuted the Day of Action video at the Commonwealth Dinner so that attendees could see just how vital is it to connect with elected leaders. Click below to watch!


We kicked up our heels …




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PWC Proud 2017

Equality Virginia returns to Prince William County for PWC Proud—a week of activities for LGBT residents and allies in PWC. We hope that you can join us for one or more of these exciting events planned in your area! 

Saturday, June 17, 2017: Equality Means Business Celebration

Join Equality Virginia staff and volunteers, as well as community leaders, for a visit to your favorite PWC businesses encouraging them to become a part of Equality Means Business (EMB), a collection of local business across Virginia that are safe and welcoming for LGBT people to work and shop. After some brief stops at a few stores in downtown Manassas, have a drink on EV to celebrate the new sign-ups at Bad Wolf Public House.

11:00 AM: Meet at Bad Wolf Public House (9406 Battle Street, Manassas, VA) and hit the streets with us for EMB
12:00 PM: Gather back at Bad Wolf Public House for a brief program
12:15 PM: Hang out at Bad Wolf Public House and celebrate with a drink on EV !

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Monday, June 19, 2017: Manassas City Council Proclamation of June as LGBT Pride Month

The Manassas City Council will issue an official proclamation recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month and honoring LGBT members of the community. This is the first recognition of its kind in the City’s history! Wear purple for pride and join EV along with your fellow community members to celebrate this historic event.

6:45 PM: Meet EV in the Manassas City Council Lobby (9027 Center St., Manassas, VA) and wear purple!
7:00 PM: Proclamation of Pride Month, immediately followed by a celebratory drink at Bad Wolf Public House (9406 Battle Street, Manassas, VA)

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017: PWC School Board Non-Discrimination Policy Hearing

On June 21st, 2017 at 5:30 PM EV will be on hand at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center (14715 Bristow Road, Manassas, VA) for the Prince William County School Board Meeting (meeting begins at 7:00 PM). The school board will be voting to amend the nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Wear your purple one more time and attend this meeting to show your support for PWC students and staff.

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

We looking forward to seeing you soon!


Local Action Kit

Local Action Kit

Equality Means Business

Equality Means Business showcases local businesses Virginia that embrace diversity among employees and clientele. These businesses sign a pledge not to turn away any customers or deny or restrict employment based upon their sexual orientation or gender identity. Click here to find businesses near you.

Inclusive Schools

Learn about the work we are doing at the local school level and how you can be involved in your community–from starting a GSA to discussing policy with your school board.

Local Leaders

Find out if your local elected officials have signed our statement of support for non-discrimination protections.

Contact My Legislator

We make it easy for you to send a message to your Virginia representatives to let them know they must keep LGBT equality a priority in policy-making.

Host a House Party for Equality

Host party for us! Invite your friends to tell them about the work we do on behalf of LGBT Virginians.

Make a Contribution to Equality Virginia Today

EV works with elected officials, from your local town hall to the executive mansion, to fight for all LGBT Virginians.  We continue to safeguard equality’s momentum in the Commonwealth, but we can’t do it without you!

Resources for Connecting with Local Leaders

Resources for Connecting with Local Leaders

EV believes that change starts at the local level. Learn more about the leaders in your community—from school board members to mayors—and why it’s important to talk them about the issues that matter to you.

Local Leaders for Fairness

The majority of Virginians and business leaders in the Commonwealth agree that including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public accommodations, and the workplace makes Virginia a more welcoming and inclusive place.

However, Virginia has no such protections. Equality Virginia engages with leaders at every level of government to advocate for the basic human right of all LGBT individuals to be free from discrimination.

Click here to see a list of local officials who have signed Equality Virginia’s statement supporting legislation to protect LGBT in the areas of housing, public accommodations, and the workplace.

Local School Board Work

District Map Updated 09.26.2016Equality Virginia believes that all students and school employees have the right to feel safe in their educational environment or workplace, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The map below shows the Virginia counties where students and staff are protected from discrimination and those counties where there is work still to be done.

Our Safe Schools work includes providing educational documents and personal stories, facilitating training, phone calls, letters, and meetings with school board members and administrative officials, sending membership emails, and participation in public forums. Protecting students and employees in schools takes teamwork, to find out how you be a part of the changes be made be emailing us at [email protected].