SB 236 could allow discrimination against LGBT students

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 26, 2014

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected], 804.643.4816

The following statement can be attributed to James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia:

“Equality Virginia is disappointed in the passage of SB 236 through the Senate and now the House of Delegates.  This bill could have the consequence of allowing students to discriminate against their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender peers under the guise of religious freedom.  As Virginia moves toward becoming a more inclusive and welcoming state for all individuals and families regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, this legislation stands out as a step in the wrong direction.  We hope that Governor McAuliffe will stand by his word to veto this bill.”

Equality Virginia, Freedom to Marry Launch $1 Million Marriage Campaign in South

For Immediate Release, February 24, 2014

Contact: Angela Dallara, Media Relations Manager, Freedom to Marry, [email protected]; 646-430-3925
Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications Director, Equality Virginia, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

Richmond –  Equality Virginia, Freedom to Marry, and 12 other Southern statewide and regional organizations today launched a $1 million multi-state campaign to build majority support for marriage in the South. The new effort, called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, will include significant field and media work over the next year in partnership with supportive organizations across the region. Bipartisan co-chairs across the region include civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who kicked off the campaign in a web ad; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); and George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon from Texas.

“Our investment in the South comes at a pivotal time in the marriage movement,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “The South is home to hundreds of thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples – and to a majority of the nearly 50 federal marriage cases now underway in courts across the country.  Our new campaign will give voice to the many in the region now ready to move forward, including clergy, business leaders, conservatives, and family members, to show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

“Equality Virginia is proud to join Freedom to Marry and numerous other Southern equality organizations to move the conversation forward about marriage,” said James Parrish, Executive Director. “We believe in treating others as we would want to be treated.  All loving and committed couples deserve to be treated with respect, but for too long, Virginians – and Americans across the South – have been denied the basic freedom to marry. It’s time to change that.”

Despite growing support in the South, Southern states continue to discriminate against the more than 200,000 couples and their families who make the region their home. According to 2010 Census Bureau data, same-sex couples raising children are more common in the South than in any other region of the country.  A recent poll of registered Southern voters showed that support for the freedom to marry in the region is now evenly split.

The Southerners for the Freedom to Marry campaign launched with 13 honorary co-chairs:

  • Alabama: State Representative Patricia Todd (D)
  • Arkansas: TV producers Harry Thomason & Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan (D)
  • Florida: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R)
  • Georgia: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D), Rep. John Lewis (D)
  • Mississippi: Lance Bass, musician and author
  • North Carolina: Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt (D)
  • South Carolina: Rep. James Clyburn (D)
  • Texas: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D); Mark McKinnon, Chief media advisor to President George W. Bush
  • Virginia: U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D)

“Marriage is a fundamental freedom, and all Americans have a right to the same legal benefits and responsibilities that come with it,” said Senator Tim Kaine, who campaigned against a 2006 amendment to the Virginia constitution that banned any legal recognition of same-sex relationships. “I’m pleased to co-chair Southerners for Freedom to Marry as we continue to move closer to our goal of achieving true marriage equality in Virginia and across the country.”

Southerners for the Freedom to Marry is led in partnership between Freedom to Marry and the following: the Equality Federation, the Campaign for Southern Equality, Georgia Equality, Equality Alabama, Equality Florida, Equality Louisiana, Equality Texas, Equality Virginia, Equality North Carolina, South Carolina Equality, the Equality Network of Oklahoma, and the Fairness Campaign of Kentucky.


What the marriage ruling means for Virginians

Friday was an especially sweet Valentine’s Day! Just a few hours before, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional. But, while LGBT and allied Virginians are celebrating this major step toward equality, this basic right will likely not be realized until the U.S Supreme Court decides one of the many marriage equality cases working its way toward it or the General Assembly and Virginia voters overturn Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay and lesbian marriage. This leaves many Virginians asking – what comes now?

cindy and robertThe ruling

Wright Allen’s conclusion is clear – Any Virginia law that bars same-sex marriage or prohibits Virginia’s recognition of lawful same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions is unconstitutional. As she stated, these laws deny the plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection of the laws guaranteed under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In her ruling, Wright Allen recognized marriage as a fundamental right.  In her words, “gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate, and lasting relationships. Such relationships are created through…choices…that must be free from unwarranted government interference.” She concluded that lesbian and gay couples are not seeking a new right, but are instead simply asking for the ability to exercise a right that is already enjoyed by the majority of Virginians.

One of the arguments brought by the defense was that of tradition. Drawing on Virginia’s history of anti-marriage laws, Wright Allen said although tradition is revered in the commonwealth, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more that it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage, which over 40 years ago the US Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional. She also rejected the absurd argument that maintaining the marriage ban would protect Virginia’s children.She recognized that the welfare of our children is of course a legitimate state interest, but opined that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples fails to further this interest and instead needlessly stigmatizes and humiliates children who are being raised by lesbian and gay couples.

What now?

Because the decision was stayed, lesbian and gay couples still are not able to get married here in Virginia – yet. If the case is appealed (which is expected), it will go to the 4th Circuit Court, and ultimately could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. This legal process could take a year or more. Now is the time to stay as strong as we can in our advocacy and outreach. Instead of idly waiting for the legal process to unfold, Equality Virginia will educate the Virginia public about why marriage equality matters – we will continue to change hearts and minds throughout the commonwealth. We will also continue to ask legislators to vote to put the repeal of Virginia’s marriage ban in front of the voters. There are steps we can take now to protect Virginia’s families today, including passing legislation to allow second-parent adoption.

Stand with us – invest in equality today. While we still have a fight ahead, there is no denying that this ruling is a giant step toward true equality in Virginia, and beyond. This ruling put Virginia in the position of leading the southern states toward a more inclusive “we the people.” We take that position seriously, and will not stop fighting for marriage equality until the day comes that lesbian and gay couples across the commonwealth are holding their Virginia marriage license in their hands.

Together we will make sure that Virginia stands on the right side of history. Be the first to get news about marriage equality and more! Sign up here to get our action alerts and newsletter.

Equality Virginia Applauds Federal Judge’s Ruling that Virginia’s Marriage Ban is Unconstitutional

Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected], 804-643-4816; 202-957-6611

The following can be attributed to James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia:

February 13, 2014 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

This is an historic day in Virginia.  By sharing our personal stories and changing hearts and minds, Equality Virginia has been working toward marriage equality in the Commonwealth of Virginia for many years.  The ruling finally puts Virginia on the path toward allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry the person they love here in the place they call home.

I am proud that here in Virginia we are no longer asking if the freedom to marry the person you love will be a reality, but instead we are asking when.  With this ruling, we are one step closer to gaining full equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Virginians.  Today Virginia is standing on the right side of history.


When The Court Rules….

Where will you be when the judge rules in favor of marriage? 

7437_557304780982115_1128602632_nWhen* the judge rules that Virginia’s marriage ban is unconstitutional, we hope you will meet up with your neighbors to celebrate!

Equality Virginia is trying to make it easier for people to get together! Here’s a list of what is going on around the commonwealth.

If you have an event you want to add, send an email to [email protected].






  • Celebrate at the Hard Times Cafe, 14389 Potomac Mills Rd, Woodbridge, VA 22192


* In the unlikely event that the Judge rules against marriage equality, meeting up with your neighbors for some support might still be a good idea…

One Step Closer to Marriage Equality!

marriage, 4th circuit, slider

Let’s Celebrate!

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of marriage equality! Loving gay and lesbian Virginians have never been closer to being able to marry the person they love here at home!  

“Today in the Commonwealth of Virginia, love and fairness won.  A federal appeals court ruled what the majority of Virginians already know – marriage is a fundamental freedom that should not be denied to lesbian and gay couples regardless of what state they call home.  Although we believe that this ruling shouldn’t have been stayed, we are still one step closer – in Virginia, the south, and America – to recognizing and celebrating the diversity of love, commitment, and family.” James Parrish, executive director

Stay up to date! Make sure you follow is on Twitter and like us on Facebook to get the latest! 

Witness for Love!

POFEC Witness for Love logoOn Valentine’s Day, lesbian and gay couples will gather  in communities across Virginia as part of Witness for Love.

These couples will be joined by affirming faith leaders and will apply for marriage licenses.   People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and Equality Virginia will organize these rallies across the commonwealth.

Find a Witness for Love event near you!

Weather Advisory: With most of Virginia under a winter weather storm watch for Wednesday night and Thursday, POFEV is closely watching forecasts and getting feedback from local team leaders about Witness for LOVE! events on Valentine’s Day. They are trying to identify which courthouses may be closed on Friday and which communities will be so adversely affected by weather conditions that travel to an event will be dangerous.  For the latest information, please check for information about what the plans are for Witness for LOVE! events on Friday and when they will reschedule any events that may have to be delayed. 

Albemarle County: 12:30 p.m., Albemarle County Courthouse, 501 East Jefferson Street, Charlottesville; Team Leaders: Andre Hakes, Rev. Melanie Miller, Amy Marshall, email 

Alexandria: 12 noon, Alexandria City Courthouse, 520 King Street, Team Leader, John Humphrey, email 

Arlington: 10:00 a.m., Arlington County Courthouse, 1425 N. Courthouse Road; Team Leader, Hazel Moon, email

Charlottesville: 12 noon, Charlottesville Courthouse, 315 East High Street, Charlottesville; Team Leaders: Andre Hakes, Rev. Melanie Miller, Amy Marshall, email 

Chesapeake City: 12 noon, Chesapeake Courthouse, 307 Albemarle Drive.  Team Leader: Jim Whalen. email 

Chesterfield: 10 a.m., Chesterfield County Courthouse, 9500 Courthouse Road, Chesterfield. Team Leader: Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline.  email

Christiansburg/Blacksburg (Montgomery County): 2 p.m., Montgomery County Courthouse, 55 East Main Street, Christiansburg; Team Leader, Rev. Dara Olandt,email

Fairfax: 1:00 p.m., Fairfax County Courthouse, 4110 Chain Bridge Road; Team Leaders Pat Monahan & Gail Schulte, email

Henrico: 2 p.m., Henrico County Courthouse, 4301 East Parham Road, Henrico. Team Leader: Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline.  email

Hanover: 1:00 pm, Hanover County Courthouse, 7507 Library Drive, Hanover; Team Leader, Rev. Cheryl Owen-Watson, email

Loudoun: 12 noon, Loudoun County Courthouse, 18 E. Market Street, Leesburg; Team Leader, Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael, email 

Lynchburg: 12 noon, Lynchburg Courthouse, 900 Court Street; Team Leaders Rev. Paul Boothby and Cecilia McBrien, email 

Newport News: 12 noon, Newport News Courthouse, 2500 Washington Avenue; Team Leader, Rev. Andrew Millard, email

Norfolk: 12 noon, Norfolk City Courthouse, 100 St. Paul’s Boulevard; Team Leader, Rev. Mark Byrd, email

Prince William: 3:30 pm, Prince William County Courthouse, 9311 Lee Avenue, Manassas; Team Leader Susan Sinclair, email

Richmond City: 12:00 noon, Richmond City Courthouse, John Marshall Courts Building, 400 North Ninth Street; Team Leaders Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline and Rev. Jeanne Pupke, email

Roanoke City: 11 a.m., Roanoke City Courthouse, 315 West Church Avenue, Roanoke;  Team Leaders, Rev. Joe Cobb and Frank House, email

Staunton & Augusta County: 12 noon, meet at Staunton City Circuit Courthouse, 113 East Beverley Street, Staunton, and we then will proceed to Augusta County Courthouse at 1 East Johnson Street, Staunton.  Team Leader: Linda Royster,  email

Virginia Beach: 3:30 p.m., Virginia Beach Courthouse, 2425 Nimmo Parkway.  Team Leader: Dr. Pamela Bro,  email

Williamsburg & James City County: 12:00 noon, Williamsburg/James City County Courthouse, 5201 Monticello Avenue, Williamsburg; Team Leader, Jennifer Ryu, email

Winchester & Frederick County: 12 noon, Winchester and Frederick County Courthouse, 5 N. Kent St., Winchester.  Team Leader: Rev. Robin Gorsline,  email


Additional times and locations may be announced soon.  Click here to see additional events that are currently being planned by POFEV.