Virginia Joins Supreme Court Brief To Strike Down DOMA

“Red State Brief” Filed in DOMA and Proposition 8 Cases Highlights Constitutional Challenges of Gay and Lesbian People Living in Conservative Communities

Download the brief here

Today, Equality Virginia and People of Faith for Equality in Virginia joined organizations across 23 states in filing a brief for two pending cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor.

The brief led by the Utah Pride Center and the Campaign for Southern Equality urges the justices to strike down a wide range of anti-gay laws.  The brief calls on the Court to uphold appellate court rulings in both the Defense of Marriage and Proposition 8 cases.

“We join our fellow signees in recognizing the difficulties faced by gay and lesbian Americans living in conservative places where they have limited rights,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said.

The brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.

“The issue risen by these cases, and addressed in our brief, is simple: is it constitutional for the laws of the United States and the various states and subdivisions of the nation, to be used to systematically denigrate the persons, the lives, the families, and the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans?” Robin Gorsline, president of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, said.

Despite growing acceptance of gay and lesbian people nationwide and in Virginia, laws still remain hostile.  Virginia lacks basic workplace protections for its LGBT state and public employees and in 2006, the Marshall-Newman Amendment banned any state government recognition of gay and lesbian couples.

“Looking north from Virginia to neighboring Maryland and DC where gays and lesbians can marry shines a light on the great disparity this Supreme Court has a chance to correct with a favorable ruling on these two cases.” Parrish said. “We are confident Virginia will eventually recognize these civil rights with the rest of the nation, but the Supreme Court now has the opportunity to make sure all gay and lesbian Americans are treated equally under the constitution.”

A U.S. Supreme Court decision is anticipated in late-June.

“It is through this brief that these citizens can speak so that the anti-equality opinions of the current state administration, as represented by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, do not constitute the only Virginia voice speaking to the Supreme Court,” Gorsline said.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for these cases on March 26-27, 2013.

Introducing Our 2013 OUTstanding Virginians

2013 Commonwealth Dinner

Get ready for a high-energy evening on Saturday, April 6 with Mayor Cory Booker and our 2013 OUTstanding Virginians!

For the first time in its history, Equality Virginia extends this recognition to allies for the contributions made on behalf of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Celebrate these champions of equality by attending the 10th Annual Commonwealth Dinner.

Announcing the 2013 honorees…

  • Viola Baskerville, a longtime ally and supporter of the LGBT community, is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the first African-American woman to seek the Democratic Party nomination for the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
  • Ted Heck is an advocate for transgender issues and against sexual and domestic violence. Speaking from personal experience as a transgender man, Ted gives talks around Virginia and co-founded the Richmond Transformers, a support group for trans men.
  • Guy Kinman sponsored a billboard project in Richmond during the 1980s featuring statements like “Someone You Know is Gay… Maybe Someone You Love” and listing his personal phone number as a resource for those in need.
  • Congressman Jim Moran is a long-standing out ally of the LGBT community, dating back to his efforts as Mayor of Alexandria to prohibit discrimination of city employees.  He is a founding member of the LGBT Equality Caucus and opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and continues supporting pro-equality legislation today.
  • Our Own Community Press was Virginia’s first LGBT newspaper.  Norfolk’s Unitarian Universalist Gay Caucus was the launching pad for the publication in August of 1976. Alicia Herr, Jim Early, and Garland Tillery will be honored for the instrumental roles they played throughout the duration of the paper’s existence
  • Charlotte Patterson is a leading researcher for LGBT Health known for studies of child development in the context of lesbian and gay parented families.
  • Gregg Smith, a former Navy pilot, is a philanthropist and advocate for LGBT and HIV outreach organizations both locally and nationally.

Standing Up For Marriage Equality

On Valentine’s Day, gay and lesbian couples gathered in five communities across Virginia to Witness for Marriage. In Arlington, Charlottesville, Hampton, Richmond, and Winchester, these couples were joined by affirming faith leaders and applied for marriage licenses.   People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and Equality Virginia helped organize these rallies across the commonwealth.

For more photos, visit Equality Virginia on Facebook.  Thank you to our photographers Todd Parola and Christian DeBaun.

Media Coverage

Witness for Marriage made headlines across Virginia.


SB701 Killed In House Subcommittee

Watch the full video below of the House Subcommittee that voted to table and therefore kill SB701 – the bill that would have protected lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender state employees from discrimination.

Vote to Table SB701 from House General Laws Subcommittee #4 Professions/Occupations & Administrative Process

YAY – Gilbert (R-15), Cox (R-55), Farrell (R-56), Knight (R-81), Peace (R-97)

NAY – McQuinn (D-70)

ABSTAIN – Torian (D-52)

NOT PRESENT – Rush (R-7)

Take Action Now

If you live in one of these delegate’s districts, you can complete our online action here.  A phone and e-mail list is provided below of those voted to table or abstained.

Del. Barry D. Knight | [email protected] | 804.698.1081
Del.  C. Todd Gilbert | [email protected] | 804.698.1015
Del. Christopher K. Peace | [email protected] | 804.698.1097
Del. John A. Cox | [email protected] | 804.698.1097
Del. Peter F. Farrell | [email protected] | 804.698.1056
Del. Luke Torian | [email protected] | 804.698.1052

Find your delegate by clicking here.

Subcommittee Discussion

Del. Todd Gilbert

“I’ve heard this bill several years in a row.  Among all the people who spoke, there was not a single example of  one that was discriminated against in public employment.  I challenge those in the room to bring forth an example.

I was told the following year that there would be a line out the door of people with examples of having been discriminated against in public employment.  There was not a single example anyone that felt that except that abstract fear that we’ve heard testified here today.

I heard the gentlewoman today say that Virginia Commonwealth – VCU is this oppressive and intolerant environment.  I dare say that’s probably not true.  The examples we’ve heard from today have actually reaffirmed that people are interested in coming to Virginia and engaging in careers here and are thriving in the process of engaging in those careers.

I think the many people that testify in their roles in higher education demonstrate that there is no problem this bill solves and once again, we’ve heard from many people about this specter of oppression that really doesn’t exist because we don’t have a single example of anyone who has been discriminated against for this reason.”

Del. Delores McQuinn

“Mr. Chairman.  During the testimony, my mind started wandering about times over the years – some situations that I’ve encountered.  I know my good friend over there [referring to Gilbert] has talked about how no one has proven, but there have been times where I’ve been discriminated against and if I had to go to the courts to prove it, it was going to be difficult.

So often proving discrimination is a very difficult thing to do, but I just wanted to share a little situation that encountered.  A young lady that I met in the neighborhood – I met the young lady because of my dog was attracted to her dog and after about six or eight months, we were meeting at the park and having the dogs playing and whatnot.

Finally, I think she got to the point that she felt comfortable enough to tell me something about her that I wasn’t aware of and that she was gay.  She was a lesbian.  She told me that she worked for the hospital.  She was a psychiatrist.  How much she had gone to school and had done additional things in her life and one day, she told me she was leaving Virginia.  I asked her why not stay here and find a job, I’ll do whatever I can, I’ll write you a letter of reference and she said to me – “Virginia does not protect people like me.”

My mind went back to that day.  If we have talented folks that have testified today that feel they do not have the comfort level and the support and the protection they need here in the State of Virginia – my good friend – if there are people who say that they don’t have the protections, then we need to do something about it.  It’s easy for a white male to feel that it’s “those” folks who are the problem because most white males can go wherever they desire.  Nobody will follow you, nobody will really accuse you a lot of times of things.  It’s easy for you to say, but discrimination is live and well and if there is anyone being discriminated against, then we should feel obligated to do something about it and protect folks who feel they are being discriminate against or there’s a possibility that they are being discriminated against, we should protect them.”


“Mr. Chair. In response, again after many years and events, I still haven’t heard an example of someone who says I was discriminated against because of my sexual orientation and that’s true today.”

Bill Protecting LGBT State Employees Killed In Subcommittee


Kevin Clay | [email protected] | 804.643.4816

Organizations Condemn House Subcommittee For Tabling SB 701

Richmond, VA – Today, Senate Bill 701 was tabled in the House General Laws Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process Subcommittee and therefore killed for the remainder of this session.

“State employees must now go another year without workplace protections,” James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, said.  “It’s downright disrespectful that this subcommittee did not listen to the thousands of Virginians that messaged their Delegates and Senators over the past two months in support of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state employees.”

The bill, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin and Senator Adam Ebbin would have extended protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in addition to other federal standards into the state code.  The bill passed the Senate last month.

“It’s outrageous that a few state Delegates refuse to ensure Virginia law reflects the basic tenet of fairness and provide workplace protections for all Virginians,” Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, said.  “No citizen should fear the loss of their livelihood because of who they are and who they love..”

The bill had received support from 46 co-patrons in both chambers of the General Assembly.  Equality Virginia reports that the General Assembly had received over 12,000 constituent messages in support of the legislation.

The advocacy organizations worked to spread the word about the importance of non-discrimination protections, which already have supported by a majority of Virginians.  According to a bipartisan poll from Fabrizo, McLaughlin & Associates and the Schapiro Group, 90 percent of Virginians believe gay and lesbian employees should be protected.

Of Virginia’s top 25 largest private employers, 80 percent include sexual orientation in their workplace policies and 60 percent include gender identity and expression.

On Monday night, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors passed a unanimous resolution in support of SB701 – it joins twelve other communities already supporting non-discrimination protections through local ordinances and executive orders.

“The support of our cities and counties is further proof that this House of Delegates needs to catch up with our Senate, the business community, and the rest of Virginia,” Parrish added.

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  Connect on or Twitter @EqualityVA.

ProgressVA is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that combines cutting edge online organizing and communications with rapid and hard-hitting earned media strategies. Year round, ProgressVA works to engage citizens from across the state around issues of immediate state or local concern. More information online at Connect on or Twitter @ProgressVA