Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Legislators for Equality: Delegate Simon

December 15th, 2014

By Delegate Marcus Simon

0ac6d43It’s been my honor to succeed my mentor and good friend James M. “Jim” Scott in the House of Delegates in 2014.  I want to take this opportunity to once again thank Jim for his support, not just during my campaign, but as a fresh-out-of-college, enthusiastic, and very inexperienced legislative aide when he gave me my first job in 1992.

I learned so much from Jim in that first job, but no lesson was more important than one that I continue to apply in my work and as a legislator today. Figure out what’s important to you, what matters most, and work hard at it. It’s easy to get distracted by the topic or controversy of the day, but Jim made it clear that unless the issue was one that he was especially passionate about or especially expert at, we didn’t need to try and take the lead.

On those core issues, though, the ones that mattered most, Jim was an extraordinarily effective leader.  One such issue was Housing.  Jim was always a passionate activist for affordable housing and housing non-discrimination.  Perhaps it’s not surprising then, that even after I left work with Jim to go on to work for the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and later off to law school, I returned to housing and real estate law as my chosen profession.

At least every biennium, if not more frequently, Jim Scott would introduce a bill to expand Virginia’s Fair Housing law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  I was pleased to continue that tradition last year, my first in the legislature, with the introduction of HB418. I plan to spearhead a bi-partisan effort to make more headway on that bill in 2015.

Beyond being the right thing to do, I think it’s important to Virginia’s business climate and to our Realtor community that this change be implemented in Virginia.  The National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics already prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by its members.  I think Virginia should hold all of its real estate licensees, whether they choose to join their realtor association or not, to the same standard.

Continuing to reject such a mainstream change to our Fair Housing law is harmful to Virginia’s reputation as a great place to do business, particularly in the science and technology communities.  While Apple Computer CEO Tim Cook only recently went public with his sexual orientation, it’s been well known for years that the hi-tech companies want to do business in places where they have access to a well-educated, capable, and enlightened workforce open to new ideas.  Places where people and talent are judged on their merits and abilities, not the color of their skin, their national origin, or their sexual orientation.

Federal Courts have made Virginia a much better place for same sex couples to live and raise their families.  It’s time for the General Assembly to take a small step in that direction — and if the step is still too big in 2015, we’ll try again. Because this is an issue that matters.

Legislators for Equality: Delegate Krupicka

December 9th, 2014

By Delegate Rob Krupicka

Rob2013HighRes (2)Over the past few years, more states have embraced marriage equality for consenting adults. Virginians similarly have moved toward supporting the right of individuals, not the state, to decide whether love should lead them to marry.

Now, Virginia’s own law defining marriage as between one man and one woman has been struck down as contrary to the U.S. Constitution. Some may say that is enough. I don’t think so. In the upcoming legislative session, many are pushing to remove the terrible Marshall-Newman language from the constitution.  While I support the goals of that effort, I think we should take this opportunity to think more broadly about freedom and what our constitution says about marriage. That is why I have submitted HJ 492, a constitutional amendment that, instead of just removing Marshall-Newman, would replace it with language protecting marriage freedom for consenting adults.

Virginia has a long history of using marriage law as a way to suppress and control adults for a range of reasons, whether due to race, faith, medical conditions, or sexuality. The best known restriction in Virginia’s history was Virginia’s ban on intermarriage between races, first enacted in 1691. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 was overturned by Loving v. Virginia in 1967. If you have never read the Racial Integrity Act text, it’s horrific.

1967 was in the lifetime of many members of the General Assembly — a jarring reminder of Virginia’s reluctance to accept the civil liberties of minority groups.

Our recent past includes other examples of substantial restrictions on marriage that we now know were wrong. A 1918 law, most of which survived until the 1970s, provided no couple could marry if the woman was younger than 45 and either she or her husband was “a habitual criminal, idiot, imbecile, hereditary epileptic or insane person.” The same law provided no person could marry if “afflicted at the time with any contagious venereal disease.”

These restrictions on marriage were tools of Virginia’s intertwined eugenics and racial purity movements that led to the forced sterilization of thousands of Virginians held in state hospitals. They were used by the state to interfere extensively in the lives of thousands of other Virginians as well. The state re-issued marriage and birth certificates for thousands of members of Virginia’s Indian tribes and reclassified them as “colored” on the basis of folklore and examinations of facial and other physical features that the state determined appeared more African American than Indian – a history which has greatly complicated federal recognition of Virginia’s Indian tribes. Through local clerks of court, local prosecutors, and what is now the state’s Office of Vital Statistics, the state campaigned to reclassify “near whites” as “colored” on their state marriage and birth records and to jail persons of different races who married.

I don’t know what new methods legislators will come up with to use marriage law to restrict the freedoms of consenting adults, but our unfortunate history tells us that gays and lesbians will not be the last group denied recognition of their families. It is time for Virginia to move into the 21st century. It is time for us to update our constitution to make clear that as a state we reject any more efforts to use marriage law as a way to control or marginalize our citizens.

From the ACLU of Virginia – The 2015 Legislative Session and LGBT Equality

December 8th, 2014

by Frank Knaack, Director of Public Policy and Communications, ACLU of Virginia
(Originally posted on ACLU of Virginia’s website)

141118 2015 GA Pre-session Tweetchat memeThe tide is turning. A generation from now, we may look back on 2014 as the turning point in the fight for LGBT equality. But, while 2014 is the year marriage equality came to the Commonwealth, we will not have full equality for LGBT Virginians until we end discrimination in employment, housing, and access to services. That’s right – while lesbian and gay Virginians can finally enjoy marriage equality, they can still be fired from their job after placing a picture of their spouse on their desk at work.   We’ve achieved tremendous progress, but discrimination against LGBT Virginians remains alive and well.

In addition to our work to end discrimination in employment and housing, we’re also gearing up for the next big battle in the effort to secure true equality for Virginia’s LGBT community – turning the tide on legislation that would permit Virginia-licensed professionals and businesses to discriminate on the basis of the owner or professional’s personal beliefs, even if those actions burden or offend the rights, welfare, or well-being of others.

Using religion to legitimize discrimination is nothing new. In the 1960s we saw institutions object to laws requiring integration in restaurants because of some owners’ beliefs that God wanted the races to be separate. Today, LGBT Virginians are the target of intolerance. Religious freedom in America means that we all have a right to our religious beliefs, but this does not give us the right to use our religion to discriminate against and impose those beliefs on others.

It’s time for Virginians to draw a line in the sand. You’re either against discrimination, or you’re not. It’s that simple. It’s time for the Commonwealth to show that LGBT Virginians are no longer a target of intolerance.

Here are our LGBT rights priorities during the 2015 session:

Protecting Public Employees from Discrimination

We’re supporting Equality Virginia’s work to pass legislation that would protect all public employees from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or status as a special disabled veteran or other veteran covered by the Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. State employees are currently protected by an Executive Order that is subject to revision at any time by the sitting governor and provides no private right of action. Local employees can use grievance procedures to complain of discrimination in some instances, but there is currently no state law prohibiting discrimination in local government workplaces.

The ACLU of Virginia supports legislation that will codify protections against discrimination in state and local government for all employees, including LGBT employees.

Using Religion to Discriminate

The Family Foundation has announced that it will seek the introduction of legislation that would permit businesses and professional services to discriminate based on the moral or religious beliefs of the owner or professional.

The ACLU of Virginia opposes legislation that would permit Virginia-licensed professionals and businesses to discriminate on the basis of the owner or professional’s personal beliefs. The ACLU of Virginia vigorously defends every person’s right to religious freedom, and the right to act on those religious beliefs—unless those actions burden or offend the rights, welfare, or well-being of others.


ACLU of Virginia is a strong coalition partner in our work to bring true equality to LGBT Virginians.  Learn more about the ACLU of Virginia here.  

Just like anyone else…

December 8th, 2014

By Kirsten Bokenkamp

From balancing academic requirements with extracurricular activities and a social life, to managing relationships with parents, teachers, and friends — students have a lot on their plates.  One thing they should never have to worry about is where they can find a safe bathroom.  Unfortunately, many transgender students face this very issue.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student in Gloucester County Public Schools, identifies as male.  Up until now, he has been using the men’s bathroom at school because it aligns with his gender identity.  However, some school board members are trying to pass a motion that would require Gavin to stop using the men’s bathroom and locker room, and instead provide him with an alternative private facility. In the eyes of Equality Virginia such a policy is discriminatory, unacceptable, and illegal under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972.

Because so few people personally know a transgender person, it can be hard to understand what it means to be transgender. Transgender is an adjective describing a person whose gender identity is different from that traditionally associated with an assigned sex at birth. At the end of the day, kids like Gavin just want to be seen for who they are.  Like any other student, those who identify as transgender want to go about their lives, socialize with their friends, and use the bathroom like anyone else.

Treating transgender students equally not only shows them that they matter, it also creates the space for a caring, respectful, and diverse school environment. Transgender inclusive policies are good for everyone.  Instead of implementing a policy that needlessly singles out transgender students, the Gloucester County School Board should consider a policy (and there are plenty of model policies to choose from) that fosters an educational environment that is safe and free from discrimination for all students.

This issue matters.  According to the most recent GLSEN School Climate Survey, Virginia schools were not safe for LGBT students.  Being verbally or physically harassed or not feeling safe at school has consequences.  On a national level, 78 percent of transgender students in grades K-12 experience harassment, and 15 percent leave school because that harassment is so severe.  Sadly, more than half of the students who have been harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or expelled because of their gender identity have attempted suicide.  As this research shows, Virginia school divisions should be doing everything in their power to make their schools more welcoming, not more alienating.

Inclusive policies at our public schools will not make misunderstanding, bullying, or harassment magically disappear. But, it is an important a start.   It is the job of school boards to protect all children.  The motion put in front of the Gloucester County School Board would do the opposite.

In the short term, the board must vote against this discriminatory and counterproductive policy.   In the long term, Gloucester County, and others across the Commonwealth, should implement policies ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are treated with respect and dignity.  And, the Virginia Department of Education should issue uniform guidance to help make that happen.

Gavin, and other transgender youth, have dreams to fulfill.  They have their whole lives in front of them – we must do everything we can to lift them up, and help them live their lives to the fullest.

Legislators for Equality: Senator McEachin

December 2nd, 2014

By Senator Donald McEachin

Senator A  Donald McEachinThis year, as I have done repeatedly, I will introduce the State Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the General Assembly. This bill would ensure that Virginians cannot be fired from state jobs, or passed over for promotion, simply because of who they are. It targets discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as many other different kinds of prejudice.

Although, unfortunately, not every time, three times now, the Senate has passed my bill. Every time, the House has killed it, typically, by voice vote, meaning there aren’t even records to show who voted against it.

Democratic Governors Warner, Kaine and McAuliffe have all issued executive orders to prevent state employment discrimination. Unfortunately, as we saw during Gov. McDonnell’s administration, those orders are not permanent. Current protections could disappear with the stroke of a pen. That’s why passing a bill is so important. Discrimination is always wrong, and Virginians shouldn’t have to count on a particular governor or election result to know they’re protected.

Discrimination and inequality have a long sordid history in Virginia. For over two centuries, our Commonwealth allowed some citizens to keep other human beings as slaves. Women couldn’t vote until 1919, and voting was extremely difficult for African-Americans until about sixty years ago. It took rulings by unelected courts to allow interracial and same-sex marriage.

These stains on our history mean that all of us have a special responsibility to stand up for each other. Women should not be the only ones opposing restrictions on their bodies. Latinos should not be the only ones advocating for the DREAM Act and immigration reform. African-Americans should not be alone in fighting voting restrictions. In the same vein, LGBT Virginians must not stand alone in fighting for their right to equal justice, fairness and opportunity.

We are making great strides: we have marriage equality in Virginia! But non-discrimination in the workplace is every bit as important. Every individual needs to know he or she can earn a living, pay his or her bills, take care of his or her family, and have the opportunity to be a contributing member of society. To deprive a person of his livelihood simply because of who he is, is to deprive him of his very chance at well-being. I applaud the demise of the marriage ban — and all of the other progress we have made — but if we cannot even promise individuals that their work status will be based on their performance, then we have left them in a truly compromised position.

Please know I will continue to fight for non-discrimination — and not just in employment. I and my Democratic colleagues will work to repeal the marriage ban in our Constitution; to extend fair housing guarantees to LGBT Virginians; and to pass other bills that move us towards the fairer and more equal Commonwealth to which we all aspire. As Virginians, we should all have confidence that we are being treated fairly and justly and that our opportunities are limited only by our own actions — not by prejudice and bigotry.

TDOR 2014

November 14th, 2014

By Julia Robins

TDORshare-2014The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual commemoration of those whose lives have been lost to anti-transgender violence. On November 20, LGBT organizations, communities, and allies gather to honor those who’ve passed and to increase the visibility of anti-transgender violence so that others will hopefully take notice.

Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives.

Too often, acts of anti-transgender violence go unnoticed. While we must work daily to bring to light the pervasive transgender-based hate and prejudice around the world, TDOR is one day in particular when we can come together to commemorate those lost.

Transgender advocate, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, founded TDOR to honor the memory of Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman who was killed in her apartment on November 28th, 1998.

In Smith’s words, “the Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

TDOR is an opportunity for communities to come together and remember the lives lost to anti-transgender violence. Last year, hundreds of people throughout the commonwealth attended candlelight vigils and services filled with community voices, memorials, and musical performances.

This year, there are a number of TDOR events happening in Virginia. Click here to find one in your community. If you know of an event that is not on our website, please send an email to [email protected], to let us know.

As we remember those lost, you can also take a stand for transgender equality by becoming an EV transgender advocate. We’ll support you as you decide when and how to add your voice to the growing movement in Virginia. From participating in coffee talks, to making a short video, to writing a blog—there are many ways to support transgender equality.


Every vote counts!

November 3rd, 2014

vote,-2014Make sure you get to the polls and vote tomorrow!  The 2014 elections are critical in determining the state of the U.S. Congress and creating pathways for the passage of fair minded policies and legislation.

Elections matter.  And, your vote counts.  Do you remember how close some of the elections were last year?  Some were too close to call for days, and others demanded a recount.  For example, our equality loving attorney general, Mark Herring, won by just 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast!   Because people who care about LGBT equality showed up at the polls in November, today we have an Attorney General who refused to defend Virginia’s unconstitutional amendment banning marriage equality and a Governor who, among other things, signed an executive order to protect LGBT state employees from discrimination in the workplace.

According to a recent poll, LGBT and allied voters were critical to 2012 electoral successes as well.  Keep it up – and vote tomorrow!  If you care about LGBT equality, one of the most important things you can do is vote for a pro-equality candidate for local, state, or federal office.  In other words, the future of LGBT equality depends on YOU!

Voting is an opportunity for you to participate in change.  Don’t let it slip by.

To find out about the candidates, or to find your polling place, see the Virginia Department of Elections website. Once you put in your personal information, click on “My Ballot” to learn more about the candidates on your ballot. The polls are open tomorrow from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. –don’t sit this election out!

Every election has consequences. Together, let’s keep Virginia, and the U.S., moving toward true and lasting LGBT equality.

Remember, Virginia law requires all voters to provide an acceptable form of photo ID.  Click here to make sure your ID meets the requirements.   If you experience a problem at the polls and would like to record it, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Thank you Tim Cook!

October 30th, 2014

tim cookBy Kirsten Bokenkamp

When Apple’s CEO Tim Cook publically came out as gay this morning through a column in Bloomberg Businessweek, all the leading business newspapers and journals, including CNN, Business Insider, and  Forbes, picked up the headline Apple CEO Time Cook: “I’m proud to be gay”.  When a business or political leader comes out as LGBT, we believe it’s a critical component toward full and lasting equality.  Living OUT and proud makes a difference.

Cook has never denied being gay, but one of the major reasons why he decided to make this announcement so public is that  – in his words – “if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help somebody struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”

At Equality Virginia we agree one hundred percent.   It all goes back to changing hearts and minds.  When such a high profile CEO comes out and takes a stand for LGBT equality, all of a sudden leading papers take notice, other business leaders think about what policies they have in place to protect their LGBT employees, and some legislators may even come to their senses and realize that we must have laws to protect people from workplace discrimination.  Minds start to change.

In his column, Cook went beyond making a simple announcement that he is gay.  He took this opportunity to raise awareness about the discrimination so many LGBT people face, and advocated for fairness.  He acknowledged that while he has had the good fortune to work at a company that knows it can only flourish when it embraces people’s differences, “not everyone is so lucky,” and highlighted the fact that in a number of states (including Virginia), you can be fired based on your sexual orientation or gender identity.

As Equality Virginia fights for workplace fairness and more in the Commonwealth, we are grateful for leaders like Tim Cook who took a stand for what he knows to be right.

In our book, Tim Cook is truly OUTstanding!

Do you know anybody in Virginia who has inspired others or helped move the commonwealth toward equality?  Every year, at its Commonwealth Dinner, Equality Virginia recognizes OUTstanding Virginians who have represented the community with distinction. Click here to nominate somebody who you think is deserving of this award.


Cooperation Brings Success

October 21st, 2014

By Denise Smith

VA-Organizing-Logo1In the struggle to make the world a more just place to live for all people, no constituency can win alone and no organization is an island. Cooperation among diverse people and organizations increases power by expanding networks and moving beyond organizational limitations.

Virginia Organizing was founded in 1995 on the idea that everyone’s voice matters and we remain committed to the understanding that all people should be included in working democratically and non-violently toward change, especially those who have traditionally been left out of the decision-making process in a community.

Virginia Organizing actively seeks out diverse perspectives because we practice our belief that all people should be treated with dignity and respect. Dignity and respect starts internally and moves outward to promote equality in every locality, every facet of state government, and nationally.

Over the years, Virginia Organizing has led campaigns that have addressed equality of LGBTQ individuals, including helping teachers and students add sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policies in Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools, pushing the Virginia Housing Development Authority Board of Commissioners to remove the family rule that barred unrelated co-borrowers from applying for loans, supporting marriage equality, working to establish a Human Rights Commission in Charlottesville, and getting a regional hospital in Roanoke to provide better transgender services.

We recently celebrated with other civil rights organizations and our LGBTQ friends the beginning of same sex marriages in Virginia. For the last 19 years, Virginia Organizing has been fighting to make sure that all people have equality under the law and on October 6 we took an important step towards a more just Virginia when the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear arguments in Virginia’s marriage equality case. LGBTQ Virginians were immediately able to get married and enjoy the legal and financial benefits that marriage provides families. This is an historic event that proves when people come together to create change, change is possible, barriers can be broken, and the collective voice will echo for generations.

Campaigns that focus on LGBTQ individuals and families are important, but all Virginia families are affected by unjust policies. We need to see the interconnectedness of these matters and act to break down barriers that prevent cooperation.

Focusing on a breadth of issues is important because justice is not limited to one particular issue. People who need health care also need clean air to breathe and a strong Social Security system when they retire. Families that struggle to make ends meet should not be vulnerable to predatory lenders, but they also need to know that their right to vote is secure and is meaningful.

Without diverse voices, Virginia loses. We lose out on a perspective that might be different than our own lived experiences. Diversity brings new ideas and solutions to the problems we all face. Virginia Organizing is committed to raising those diverse voices and to helping people share their ideas and experiences.

Virginia Organizing focuses on those who have been silenced to combat the widespread privilege that exists in the majority. Those in power have traditionally had power and create policies and environments—like partisan districting—that maintain that power.

Raising the voices of those in minority constituencies, whether they are racial, ethnic, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation, religious, geographic, or other minorities, shifts the power dynamic and holds those in power accountable. When those voices are collectively raised, and different constituencies speak out and take action on issues that they are not personally experiencing because we are all affected, serious change becomes possible.  We need to “borrow and share” power to win!


Every year, at its Commonwealth Dinner, Equality Virginia recognizes OUTstanding Virginians who have represented the community with distinction. Last year, Virginia Organizing was recognized for its work moving Virginia toward LGBT equality.  Click here to learn more about past OUTstanding Virginians and to nominate somebody – or an organization –  that you think is deserving of this award!


A special thanks to Denise Smith for writing this blog.  Denise serves on the State Governing Board for Virginia Organizing, an organization working for a more just Virginia for all people.  Virginia Organizing was recognized as an OUTstanding Virginian at Equality Virginia’s 2014 Commonwealth Dinner. 

Hampton Roads History and Legends

October 15th, 2014

By Charles Ford

picofme2Norfolk, Virginia would have seemed an unlikely place for the flourishing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

Until well into the twentieth century, it lacked accredited universities and well-known cultural institutions, yet featured an array of bars and brothels that openly catered to seemingly heterosexual sailors and travelers. The wider metropolitan region of Hampton Roads had even been named after an influential boyfriend of playwright William Shakespeare—the Earl of Southampton, but that fact had been long forgotten in the port city’s perpetual haze of tavern smoke. Nevertheless, Norfolk’s very seediness as “the wickedest city in America” allowed for a whole gamut of sexual and gender identities that reflected the rough-and-tumble maritime world.

This diversity only accelerated with the military build-ups associated with the world wars of the twentieth century; the Hampton Roads area grew by leaps and bounds with young migrants coming to its cities from all over the United States. The beginnings of identifiably LGBT communities came out of these cohorts of soldiers, sailors, nurses, etc., who remained largely invisible and/or closeted to avoid the ongoing threat of governmental prosecution.

Norfolk was a key place in the post-World War II Lavender Scare in which many LGBT or allegedly LGBT people lost their federal jobs because they were LGBT. That official harassment and surveillance would remain a real danger long past the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 in New York City.

One of the most famous of these local raids happened at the popular Pantry in March 1976. The Norfolk police apprehended twelve men on an array of charges from selling liquor by the glass to known homosexuals in a “lascivious context” to holding hands with someone of the same sex through facilitating a “house of ill repute.” The Pantry Twelve stood up for themselves: for court, they donned suits and ties and hired a well-known and effective local attorney and straight ally—the celebrated Peter Decker, and thus the judge dismissed nearly all but one of the misdemeanors alleged against them.

matlovichAround that same time, Hampton Roads witnessed the first voluntary admission of homosexuality by an active-duty serviceman through the discharge hearings for Vietnam veteran Leonard P. Matlovich, Jr. of the United States Air Force. These two events mobilized local LGBT leaders to found Our Own Community Press in the summer of 1976, and would help to galvanize grassroots protests at the downtown Scope Arena against homophobic singer Anita Bryant the very next year. Norfolk was the only city in which protestors disrupted Bryant’s performances inside her venue.

This burst of communal strength carried over into the founding of statewide LGBT advocacy organizations. One of the forerunners to Virginians for Justice, now Equality Virginia, was the Virginia Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which held its inaugural meeting in Richmond on February 24, 1978. And, one of its forerunners was the Norfolk Coalition for Human Rights, formed just ten days before the Anita Bryant protests of June 8, 1977, which would change “mildly militant” Tidewater forever.

At any rate, the Hampton Roads delegation was the largest and most well-resourced at the Richmond meeting, reflecting the energy and momentum begun by the Matlovich case just three years before. Indeed, Hampton Roads would dominate state-wide advocacy platforms until well into the Eighties, belying its later reputation as a provincial backwater years behind metro Washington.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic decimated this local leadership in the middle and late Eighties, despite Hampton Roads’ Patrick Heck’s founding and maintenance of Virginians for Justice from 1989 onward. Communal energies shifted to fight the AIDS pandemic, which hit Hampton Roads especially hard. Bar owner Tony Pritchard rallied others to launch the Tidewater AIDS Crisis Taskforce (TACT) in 1983, and other AIDS service organizations emerged by the early twenty-first century to form a sustained and significant supplement to the health care establishment in Hampton Roads.

Another landmark contribution to civic reputation and culture was the extraordinarily productive “Boston marriage” of Irene Leache and Anna Wood, which would produce one of the finest private schools for girls on the East Coast. Out of that school sprang all kinds of lasting institutions, including the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra, the Norfolk Society for the Arts, the Little Theater, and the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences.

While for years the former remained a fourth-rate and segregated museum, the arrival of the semi-closeted heir to an automobile fortune, Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.,  would later transform it into the Chrysler Museum of Art—a world-class treasure trove throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.

LGBT peoples were, and still are instrumental in giving Norfolk and Hampton Roads the cultural richness that they enjoy today.

Hampton Roads continues to be a leader for LGBT equality in Virginia.  For the last eight years, Equality Virginia has recognized local legends from the Hampton Roads area at our annual Legends Gala.  This year, on Saturday, November 8, we will honor Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, Mrs. Pam Northam, and Hampton Roads Pride.  Click here to learn more about this event and to purchase your tickets!  


Thank you to Charles H. Ford for this Special Edition blog!  Ford is Professor and Coordinator of History at Norfolk State University. He and his research partner, Dr. Jeffrey Littlejohn of Sam Houston State University in Texas, have published many pieces on civil rights and public school desegregation in Hampton Roads and beyond. One of their recent co-authored articles, “Reconstructing the Old Dominion:Lewis F. Powell, Stuart T. Saunders, and the Virginia Industrialization Group, 1958-65,” won the William M. E. Rachal Award from the Virginia Historical Society for the best work to appear in the prestigious Virginia Magazine of History and Biography for 2013.