Virginians leading LGBT Equality Efforts Recognized by Equality Virginia

Equality Virginia Will Honor OUTstanding Virginians at April 5 Commonwealth Dinner Featuring Special Guests Laverne Cox and Jonathan Capehart


Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp | [email protected] | 804.643.4816

RICHMOND, VA – On Saturday, April 5, Equality Virginia will recognize the 2014 class of OUTstanding Virginians – those who represent  Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community with distinction and who are committed to moving the LGBT community forward – at its 11thAnnual Commonwealth Dinner held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  The Commonwealth Dinner is Virginia’s largest gathering for the LGBT community and supporters.  This year will feature critically acclaimed actress and star of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, as Keynote Speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jonathan Capehart as Emcee.  More information is available at

“There are many Virginians working hard to move the commonwealth towards equality and fairness,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “Equality Virginia is pleased to recognize the 2014 class of OUTstanding Virginians for their innumerable contributions to their communities and for making Virginia a more welcoming place to call home.”

2014’s OUTstanding Virginians include:

Eboné Bell (Publisher, Alexandria) After coming out in college, Eboné Bell quickly immersed herself in LGBT causes. She is responsible for organizing many events and projects, including the annual Capital Queer Prom, hugely successful galas for Capital Pride, and the bi-monthly publication Tagg.

Donnie Conner (Psychotherapist, Richmond) Donnie Conner has made huge strides in addressing the mental health needs of Richmond’s gay community. A co-founder of Commonwealth Professional Services, he has used his credentials in marriage and family counseling to work with LGBT and HIV-positive clients, and has also been a pioneer in the counseling of gay youth coming out. He has received honors from the American Counseling Association and American Mental Health Counselor’s Association, among others.

Allen Groves (Dean, Charlottesville) As an openly gay man, Allen Groves has blazed a trail in several industries. A former partner at a large Atlanta law firm, he is currently the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at UVA where he is highly regarded and beloved by students gay and straight alike, and strives to uphold the inclusive values of the institution.

Greta Harris (Housing Advocate, Richmond) Drawing upon inspiration from her parents, grandparents, and extended family who were active in the Civil Rights movement, Greta Harris is passionate about affordable housing as a social justice issue and believes strongly in the power of community development. Despite initial trepidation, Greta came out in the early 90s, and her courage to be authentic and fair has earned her a strong network of allies. She currently serves as the President and CEO of the Richmond-based Better Housing Coalition.

Robert Roman (Business Owner, Hampton Roads) Co-owner of Decorum, a furniture store in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Robert Roman is an active and passionate member of his community. He is a part of the Civic League, the Ghent Business Association, and other neighborhood service groups, and served on Equality Virginia’s board for a time.

Jean Segner (Banker, Richmond) After moving to the Richmond area and beginning a career in finance, Jean Segner discovered the Central Virginia Business and Professional Guild, and through her involvement with the Guild she became active in political fundraising for LGBT-friendly candidates. She later became involved with Equality Virginia, serving first as a board member, then Interim Executive Director as well as chairing the committee for the Commonwealth Dinner from 2009 to 2011.

Dr. Walter Sheppe (Retired Biologist, Richmond) Dr. Walter Sheppe has been involved with the gay liberation movement since 1959, helping to set the stage for things to come. In 1974, as a member of the Gay Academic Union, he presented an Academic Gay Bill of Rights which focused on the rights of sexual minorities at colleges and universities, and later went on to help found the LGBT Union at the University of Akron where he taught.

Jeff Trammell (Public Service, Washington, DC) Jeff Trammell is a man of many milestones – the first openly LGBT chair of the board of trustees of a major US university, the first openly gay member of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors, and the first openly LGBT member of the board of trustees of the Association Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. He has also been involved in LGBT political activism, working with the Kerry and Gore campaigns to create comprehensive bases in the LGBT community.

Virginia Organizing (Statewide) Founded on the principle of dignity and respect for all, Virginia Organizing is a grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. The LGBT perspective is an integral part of the organization, and these concerns have been woven into the community’s plan for action.

Equality Virginia has recognized OUTstanding Virginians at its Commonwealth Dinner since 2009.


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.

2014 General Assembly Session shows positive momentum for issues important to LGBT Community


Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected], 804.643.4816

RICHMOND – During the 2014 General Assembly session, Equality Virginia supported legislation that would bring the Commonwealth of Virginia closer to full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families.   While the organization’s priority bills failed to pass, some bills did receive bi-partisan support in the House of Delegates.

Identical bills that would have protected LGBT state employees from being fired or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity were introduced by Democrat Marcus Simon and Republican Ron Villanueva.

“There is no excuse for the Commonwealth of Virginia to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees differently from any other employee,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “It is promising to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree that LGBT state employees should not live in fear of being fired simply because of who they are.”

Equality Virginia also supported bills in the House and Senate that would have allowed for second-parent adoption in Virginia.  The Senate bill, introduced by Democrat Senator Janet Howell, failed to report out of the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee by a six-to-six vote.  Republican Delegate Joseph Yost was chief patron of an identical bill in the House.  The House bill had seven cosponsors – five Democrats and two Republicans.

“Second-parent adoption is about Virginia’s children,” said Parrish.  “Until Virginia gains the freedom to marry, there are thousands of children, being raised by gay and lesbian couples, who would gain numerous protections if second-parent adoption were possible.  Protecting our children should be a no brainer.”

Other bills Equality Virginia supported in the 2014 General Assembly session included those that would have ensured fair housing laws, banned gay conversion therapy, and expanded insurance benefits.

“While we fell short of achieving all of our goals, this session has shown that a growing number of legislators are willing to stand on the right side of history in support of equality and fairness,” said Parrish.  “We will take the momentum we have gained this session to continue our work towards making Virginia a place that is fair and welcoming for all.”