Archive for the ‘Press Room’ Category

Governor Terry McAuliffe Declares June LGBT Pride Month

June 2nd, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 2, 2015

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

RICHMOND – On Tuesday evening at a reception held at the Governor’s Mansion, Governor Terry McAuliffe proclaimed June 2015 as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride month.   The proclamation, presented to Equality Virginia, reads that the Commonwealth of Virginia celebrates its diverse LGBT community and is dedicated to fostering acceptance and preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We have a good friend in Governor McAuliffe,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “As we focus on creating a Virginia where gay and transgender people can live, work, play, and do business without the fear of facing discrimination, we are grateful to have the Governor’s participation and outspoken support.”

Governor McAuliffe has spoken at a number of Equality Virginia events over the last few months, including the Virginia Fairness Reception where the organization honored  Fortune 500 Companies based in Richmond that have policies in place to protect gay and transgender employees.  He has been a long-time supporter of the freedom to marry, and his first executive order protects gay and transgender state employees from workplace discrimination.

“Making this Commonwealth more open and welcoming to all is an essential part of my effort to build a new Virginia economy. I am proud of the progress we have made together on ending workplace discrimination, embracing the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage and finally allowing same-sex couples to adopt. I look forward to continuing to work with my friends in the LGBT community to advocate for polices that make Virginia more open and equal to everyone,” said Governor McAuliffe.

This is the second year in a row that Governor McAuliffe has declared June LGBT Pride Month.

“Virginia is moving in the right direction, but even as we celebrate successes, there is a lot more work to do before the commonwealth is truly welcoming to gay and transgender individuals and families.    As we continue to change hearts, minds, and laws, we are thankful to have the full support of Governor Terry McAuliffe,” said Parrish.

###

Equality Virginia Supports Proposed Family Life Education Curriculum for Fairfax County Public Schools

May 21st, 2015

Recommendations Promote Tolerance and Non-Discrimination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 21, 2015

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

RICHMOND – Equality Virginia fully supports the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee’s (FLECAC) recommendations to the Fairfax County School Board regarding Family Life Education curriculum revisions.

The recommendations strive to “promote an environment free of bias and discrimination,” and include curriculum that introduces students in grades seven and eight to concepts including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This shouldn’t be controversial,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “The proposed curriculum will benefit all students, promote understanding and knowledge, and make Fairfax County schools a safer and more welcoming place for everybody.”

Members of the newly formed Northern Virginia Advocates for Equality will provide testimony at Thursday’s meeting.  According to their group statement, “The recommendations are a step in the right direction for creating respectful and accepting educational environments for all students in Fairfax County.”

The proposed curriculum, in accordance with broad scientific consensus, will teach that LGBT people are normal within the spectrum of human development.  Parents will still be able to opt their children out of Family Life Education lessons, including, but not limited to the sexual orientation and gender identity lessons.

FLECAC, a standing citizen advisory committee comprised of school board appointees, community members, students, teachers, and administrators will present its recommendations to the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday May 21, 2015.  Public comments will be accepted from May 21 through June 19, and final School Board approval is set for June 25, 2015.

 

It’s Time for the Supreme Court to Finish the Job on Marriage

April 27th, 2015

For immediate release – April 27, 2015

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments Tuesday in marriage cases from Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee. With regard to the issue of marriage equality and the Court, the following statement can be attributed to James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia:

“When Virginia became the first southern state to gain the freedom to marry in October of 2014, we didn’t know the momentum for marriage equality would spread like wildfire throughout the country.  Nearly three-quarters of Americans – including Virginians – now live in states that have the freedom to marry, but that isn’t good enough. The patchwork of discrimination is unsustainable, hinders economic growth, and hurts our families. It’s time for the Supreme Court to finish the job on marriage and to rule on the side of love, fairness, and equality. It’s time for our country to be on the right side of history.”

Senator Tim Kaine, Special Guests Join Equality Virginia’s Commonwealth Dinner

April 16th, 2015

MEDIA ADVISORY

12th Annual Dinner Dedicated to Celebrating the Freedom to Marry in the Commonwealth of Virginia

 

CONTACT:  Kirsten Bokenkamp | [email protected] | 804.643.4816

 

WHAT: Press invitation to attend Equality Virginia’s 12th Annual Commonwealth Dinner

WHEN: Saturday, April 18, 2015, 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.

WHERE: Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. Third St., Richmond, VA

WHO: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Lt. Governor Ralph Northam will join Virginia’s largest gala for the gay and transgender community. Other elected officials include Congressman Bobby Scott; Senators Adam Ebbin, Rosalyn Dance, and Donald McEachin; Delegates Betsy Carr, Cherniele Herring, Kathleen Murphy, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles and Marcus Simon.

At this year’s Commonwealth Dinner, Equality Virginia will be celebrating the freedom to marry.  Marriage equality is an important part of Virginia’s history, and among the nearly 1,000 guests attending the Commonwealth Dinner will be the four plaintiff couples winning the freedom to marry in Virginia, representatives from the organizations representing those couples, political allies, and a host of  LGBT supporters.

In addition to celebrating marriage, the following OUTstanding Virginians will be recognized for representing the LGBT community with distinction and for their commitment to moving the LGBT community forward: Keri Abrams, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, William C. Hall, Jr., Rodney Lofton, Paula Prettyman and Kelly Schlageter, Todd Rosenlieb, and Mothers & Others.  Since 2009, Equality Virginia has honored OUTstanding Virginians at its annual Commonwealth Dinner.

RSVP: Please contact Kirsten Bokenkamp for more details or to RSVP.  The program is between 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM.

###

Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan education, outreach, and advocacy organization seeking equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians.  Since 1989, EV has worked to end discrimination, protect families and build safe communities.  More information is online at EqualityVirginia.org.  Connect on Facebook.com/EqualityVA or Twitter @EqualityVA.

Equality Means Business for Housing Providers

March 31st, 2015

Housing Opportunities Should Be Based on Qualifications not Orientation or Gender Identity

For Immediate Release

March 31, 2015

Contact:
Kirsten Bokenkamp, Equality Virginia, (804) 643-4816, [email protected]
Mike Burnette, Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME). (804) 354-0641 x118, [email protected]

RICHMOND, VA  – To celebrate fair housing month in April, Equality Virginia and Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) are encouraging housing professionals and companies to join the new multistate campaign “Equality Means Business” designed to showcase businesses that know how vital LGBT customers and employees are to their success in a modern economy. Joining this free campaign is simple. Realtors, builders, mortgage brokers, rental managements companies, home insurance businesses, and other housing professionals complete the membership form at www.virginiafairness.org/equality-means-business which guarantees that their LGBT employees and clients will not be denied employment or service because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Participating individuals and businesses will be listed in the Equality Means Business online directory and will receive marketing materials that will signal their support of inclusiveness.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia said, “Businesses that welcome LGBT customers and clients and take a stand for workplace non-discrimination deserve to be recognized for moving Virginia, the region, and indeed the whole country in the right direction.”

Heather Crislip, president and CEO of HOME stated that, “Housing Providers are often the first contact that families have with their new location. It is vital for the housing industry to not discriminate in order to create diverse and thriving communities that are welcoming to all individuals. Housing opportunities should be based on someone’s ability to qualify, not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In 2014, HOME conducted a study into the prevalence of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Richmond rental market. HOME’s research showed a 31% rate of differential treatment by which same‐sex couples were treated worse than equally-qualified different‐sex couples in their search for housing. To read the findings, read this report, Housing Discrimination Against Same Sex Couples in Virginia.

State Delegate Marcus Simon (D‐Falls Church) said, “All Virginians should be treated equally in the housing market.  This study raises serious doubts as to whether that is true for same‐sex couples in Virginia. I look forward to the day when all Virginians are judged on their merits when seeking a place to live and make their home.”

This past General Assembly session, the Virginia legislature had the opportunity to expand Virginia fair housing laws to protect sexual orientation and gender identity, joining 22 other states and DC that already outlaw discrimination on these bases. Unfortunately, HB 1454 (Simon, D‐Falls Church) and SB 917 (Wexton, D‐Leesburg) died early in the session. HJ 648 (Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach) offered a chance for the Housing Commission to study LGBT housing discrimination, but it too was killed in subcommittee.

“It makes no sense to consider someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity when deciding whether to rent or sell a home to them,” declared Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-Leesburg). She continued, “Unfortunately, we know these considerations are blocking housing for LGBTQ Virginians. I plan to reintroduce legislation in 2016 to outlaw this invidious discrimination. In the meantime, housing providers can show their support for these important rights by joining Equality Means Business.”

The “Equality Means Business” campaign allows the housing industry to voice their support for the LGBT community in all housing transactions.

 

###

 

Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. (HOME) was founded in 1971 with its core mission of ensuring equal access to housing for all people. HOME investigates housing discrimination and provides support for discrimination victims. HOME is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency that helps first-time homebuyers and assists homeowners to avoid foreclosure. HOME also conducts policy and research initiatives that expand housing opportunity.  More information is online at HOMEofVA.org. Connect on Facebook.com/HOMEofVA or Twitter @HOMEofVA

 

Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan education, outreach, and advocacy organization seeking equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians. Since 1989, EV has worked to end discrimination, protect families and build safe communities.  More information is online at EqualityVirginia.org. Connect on Facebook.com/EqualityVA or Twitter @EqualityVA.

 

Virginians Leading LGBT Equality Efforts Recognized by Equality Virginia

March 23rd, 2015

OUTstanding Virginians to be honored April 18 at Equality Virginia’s 12th Annual Commonwealth Dinner

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2015

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

RICHMOND – On Saturday, April 18, Equality Virginia will honor the 2015 class of OUTstanding Virginians – those who represent Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community with distinction and are committed to moving the LGBT community forward – at its 12th Annual Commonwealth Dinner.

“One of the reasons we are able to celebrate the freedom to marry at this year’s Commonwealth Dinner is in part because of the contributions of our 2015 OUTstanding Virginians,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “We are pleased to recognize the 2015 class of OUTstanding Virginians for everything they have done to make Virginia a more welcoming and inclusive place to live.”

2015’s OUTstanding Virginians include:

Keri Abrams, Mechanic and Spokesperson, Richmond:  After transitioning from male to female in 2010, at the age of 55, Keri Abrams quickly connected with the James River Transgender Society and became a leader and spokesperson in Virginia’s transgender community. Today, she shares her story with individuals and the public alike.  One of her goals is to win recognition of the needs and experiences of transgender people out in the broader community. “It’s about individuals coming together as a community,” Keri said.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Advocate, Richmond:  This past fall, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga had the “best day of her professional life” when, as the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, she got to inform the two couples who the organization represented in Virginia’s freedom-to-marry case that the U.S. Supreme Court would let stand the lower court ruling that Virginia’s marriage ban was unconstitutional.  Among other accomplishments, Claire has put in countless hours representing Virginia’s LGBT community at the General Assembly, led the Commonwealth Coalition against the Marshall-Newman Amendment, and encouraged the establishment of EV’s OUTstanding Virginians program.

William C. Hall, Jr., Corporate Executive, Richmond: For decades, William C. Hall, Jr. has been working to turn the tide in a positive direction for LGBT Virginians – both actively, as past board chair for Equality Virginia, and by example, as an openly gay man holding high-profile roles in journalism, business, and non-profit leadership.  After losing friends to AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, Bill decided that he “just couldn’t sit still on this issue.”  Bill has seen a lot of positive changes over the years, but believes that true equality will not be achieved until we have changed not only laws, but people’s hearts and minds.

Rodney Lofton, Author and Healthcare Activist, Richmond: From his personal experience, Rodney Lofton knows the importance of having a support system during tough times. The organization Rodney leads, called the Renewal Projects, offers retreats to people with HIV/AIDS.  Both the newly diagnosed and “returners” participate in gatherings, workshops, creative expression, storytelling, and periods of rest and relaxation.  Rodney is determined to give back all that he can, is very engaged in Virginia’s communities of color to address racial disparities in HIV awareness and access to healthcare, and works hard to make sure anybody who crosses his path feels affirmed instead of judged.

Paula Prettyman and Kelly Schlageter , Organizers, Fairfax: When Paula Prettyman and Kelly Schlageter founded Equality Fairfax in 2001, they wanted to make a difference for the community.  With their leadership and involvement, Equality Fairfax became a fixture in the community, and an important mechanism for people in Fairfax to be involved in creating legislative change.  Through Equality Fairfax, Paula and Kelly were very active in the Commonwealth Coalition, in part because they “wanted Virginians to recognize that love is love.”  The couple is very involved with People of Faith for Equality in VA (POFEV), and Paula sits on the Board of Directors.

Todd Rosenlieb , Choreographer, Educator, and Mentor, Norfolk: Todd Rosenlieb grew up in a house of love, and he has created the same welcoming atmosphere of acceptance, love, and respect at his company, TR Dance.  The facility that Todd, and his partner Ricardo, work out of is as much a community center as it is dance studio.  Todd has put his talent and artistic creativity together with his desire to give back to the community in many ways including conducting dance outreach programs for youth, mentoring families, and gaining community support for important issues including LGBT equality.

Mothers and Others of Virginia, Allies, Richmond: Founded in 2006 by Ellen Shelton and Joyce Scher, Mothers & Others of Virginia is an alliance of mothers, fathers, friends, and fair-minded citizens who support equality for LGBT Virginians.  By talking to opponents of marriage equality about their daughters and sons, members of Mothers & Others have established personal bonds with listeners and have changed a lot of hearts and minds over the years. Even now that Virginia has gained the freedom to marry, Scher says they are “fighting as hard as ever” because there is much more work to be done.

Equality Virginia has recognized OUTstanding Virginians at its annual Commonwealth Dinner since 2009.  The Commonwealth Dinner is Virginia’s largest black-tie gathering for the LGBT community and supporters.   This year, Equality Virginia will also be recognizing the four couples who were the plaintiffs in the legal case that ultimately brought the freedom to marry to Virginia on October 6, 2014.

Learn more about the 2015 OUTstanding Virignians at https://www.equalityvirginia.org/dinner/outstanding-virginians/

###

 

Equality Virginia is the leading statewide, non-partisan education, outreach, and advocacy organization seeking equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians.  Since 1989, EV has worked to end discrimination, protect families and build safe communities.  More information is online at EqualityVirginia.org.  Connect on Facebook.com/EqualityVA or Twitter @EqualityVA.

Equality Virginia to celebrate the freedom to marry at its 12th Annual Commonwealth Dinner

March 9th, 2015

March 9, 2015 – For immediate release
Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

RICHMOND – Equality Virginia announced on Monday that its Annual Commonwealth Dinner, to be held on April 18 in Richmond, will be dedicated this year to celebrating the freedom to marry in the commonwealth.  Today, 37 states and Washington D.C. have the freedom to marry, but just five months ago, on October 6, 2014, Virginia became the first southern state to gain the freedom to marry.

“This is the time to recognize the work that so many Virginians have put into this fight for decades, some of whom never got to see this day,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “We will honor everybody’s hard work and celebrate this important time in history by throwing one big wedding reception for Virginia.”

Joining Equality Virginia to commemorate this important time in history will be over 1,000 supporters of Virginia’s LGBT community, the plaintiff couples in the cases that challenged Virginia’s ban on marriage, and political allies that helped make the freedom to marry in the commonwealth a reality.

“From Attorney General Herring’s historic decision to side with the plaintiffs, to Judge Arenda Wright Allen’s ruling  – the day before Valentine’s Day – finding the marriage ban unconstitutional, to the rallies that hundreds of Virginians participated in, this journey has been phenomenal,” said Parrish. “Virginia is ready to celebrate!”

The Commonwealth Dinner is Virginia’s largest black-tie gathering for the LGBT community and its supporters, and is Equality Virginia’s largest annual fundraiser.  To learn more about this event, click here: www.equalityvirginia.org/dinner

 

###

Equality Virginia pleased with Attorney General’s opinion: school boards have authority to protect LGBT employees from discrimination

March 5th, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 5, 2015

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected];  804.643.4816202-957-6611

 

RICHMOND – On Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Herring released an opinion stating that school boards in Virginia have the authority to expand their anti-discrimination policies to encompass sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This is great news for Virginia’s school boards as well as gay and transgender public school employees,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “School boards across the commonwealth now have the freedom to create and implement inclusive policies that align with the non-discrimination policies already in place at the majority of Virginia’s leading employers.  Employees should be judged on their qualifications, experience, and the job they do – nothing more and nothing less.

Wednesday’s opinion implicates non-discrimination policies with respect to both students and school employees.  As part of its safe schools work, Equality Virginia has been working with school boards to implement bullying policies enumerated with sexual orientation and gender identity.  In 2012, less than 2 percent of Virginia’s public school students attended a school with such a policy.  Today, more than 20 percent of Virginia’s public school students are protected.

“This opinion will allow us to strengthen our advocacy efforts in school districts throughout the commonwealth,  we are excited that we can now work with school boards to implement policies to protect not only students, but also employees,” said Parrish.

The opinion released overrules a 2002 opinion that said school boards had no authority to enact employment non-discrimination policies.  The opinion also concluded that school boards may not discriminate in the provision of benefits to employees who are married according to whether the employee’s spouse is of the same or opposite gender.

###

Equality Virginia is a statewide, non-partisan education, outreach, and advocacy organization seeking equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians.  Since 1989, EV has worked to end discrimination, protect families and build safe communities.  More information is online at EqualityVirginia.org.  Connect on Facebook.com/EqualityVA or Twitter @EqualityVA.

 

After passing Senate, bill protecting Virginia’s LGBT public employees killed in House subcommittee

February 25th, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 12, 2015

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

RICHMOND – On Thursday, Senate Bill 785, a bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public employees from workplace discrimination, was tabled in the House General Laws subcommittee 4, effectively killing it for the remainder of this session.

“It is shameful that this subcommittee can’t come together in support of a commonsense bill that reflects the beliefs held by the majority of Virginians,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.   “Ideology should not stand in the way of achieving fairness and equality – something that would benefit all Virginians.”

The bill, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin, with an identical version filed by Senator Adam Ebbin, extends protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for Virginia’s public employees.  It passed the Senate with bipartisan support after Lt. Governor Ralph Northam issued a tie-breaking vote. Earlier this session, Republican Ron Villanueva and Democrat Ken Plum introduced similar bills that were also tabled in the same House subcommittee.

Shortly after his inauguration, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order One that bans discrimination against LGBT state employees.  SB 785 would have made those protections permanent and expanded such protections to all public employees.

When polled, a clear majority of Virginians voice their belief that LGBT Virginians should have the right to work without facing discrimination.

“Virginians want to live in a commonwealth that is welcoming and inclusive. Today, the subcommittee members missed an opportunity to give LGBT Virginians equal chance for fairness and job security.  Public employees must now go yet another year without workplace protections,” said Parrish.

Even as the anti-equality majority in the House of Delegates once again has stalled progress toward equality and fairness, Equality Virginia has been working closely with members of the business community that are supportive of workplace diversity and are committed to making Virginia’s business climate conducive to economic success.

In January of 2015, Equality Virginia awarded five Richmond based Fortune 500 companies – Altria, Capital One, CarMax, Dominion, and Genworth – with Virginia Fairness Accreditation for their policies that clearly welcome LGBT employees.  The majority of Fortune 500 companies have policies in place to protect their LGBT employees. Also in January, together with equality groups from North Carolina and South Carolina, Equality Virginia launched Equality Means Business, a program that recognizes storefront business that have non-discrimination policies in place and have pledged to welcome LGBT customers and clients.

“These companies know that policies welcoming diversity and inclusion are not only good for business, but are the right thing to do.  It’s time for the Commonwealth of Virginia catch up to the business community,” said Parrish.

Two bills important to the LGBT community pass the Virginia Senate

February 3rd, 2015

Bi-partisan support in the Senate signals progress for Virginia’s LGBT community

For immediate release – Feb. 3, 2015

In response to SB 785 (McEachin) and SB 1211 (Ebbin) passing out of the Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 3., the following statement can be attributed to James Parrish, executive director, Equality Virginia. 

“Workplace non-discrimination is a priority issue for Equality Virginia, and we are pleased to see SB 785 pass the Senate with bi-partisan support.  Fairness and inclusion are mainstream values shared by the majority of Virginians and the Commonwealth’s top employers. It is time for the Commonwealth of Virginia to follow the lead of the business community by passing a law to protect LGBT public employees.

SB 1211 is a commonsense bill that ensures the rights and responsibilities of married couples are clear under the law.  Updating the Code of Virginia to reflect marriage equality is the right thing to do, and it clarifies that all legally married spouses are included under Virginia law.

To see these two bills pass out of the Senate with bi-partisan support gives us momentum as we turn to the House of Delegates.  If history tells us anything, the anti-LGBT majority in the House of Delegates will stall any progress we have made when it comes to workplace non-discrimination and relationship recognition, but we cannot – and will not –  give up this important fight.

The majority of Virginians want to see LGBT families and individuals welcomed in Virginia and treated equally under the law.  These bills are about ensuring that Virginia is welcoming to all families and businesses, and if passed will ultimately make the Commonwealth a better place for all of us to live, work, and play.”