1/31/2015: This Week at the General Assembly

Friday updates graphic



Wow – we had a really busy week! Unlike last week, I’m happy to report that this week we had some big successes.

Monday, January 26

Monday was a rewarding day at the General Assembly. SB 785, sponsored by Senator McEachin (D–9) was reported out of committee in a tight 8Y–7N vote. That bill, if it is passed by the full Senate, would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for all public employees. Passage of this bill would ensure that Virginia is competitive in recruiting the best employees and is a welcoming place for businesses and families alike.

SB 1211 also made it out of the General Laws and Technology committee with a large number of yea votes. SB 1211 is sponsored by Senator Ebbin (D–30). It revises gendered language like “mother” and “father” and “husband” and “wife” to “parent” and “spouse.” If it passes, it would modernize the Code of Virginia to reflect the contemporary reality of relationships in Virginia.

Those bills will be voted on by the full Senate on Monday, February 2nd.

Also on Monday, subcommittee three of the House Militia, Police, and Public Safety committee tabled HB 1494 (Sullivan D–48). HB 1494 was the House version of Senator Favola’s hate crimes bill. It would have required the reporting of crimes against LGBT individuals due to their sexuality or gender identity.

  • SB 785 (McEachin D–9) – reported
  • SB 1211 (Ebbin D–30) – reported
  • HB 1494 (Sullivan D–48) – failed to report

Tuesday, January 27 and Wednesday, January 28

Tuesday and Wednesday were brutal for bills that would have ensured the rights of LGBT Virginians. Over the two days Senate committees heard four bills, while House sub–committees heard five bills. Unfortunately, all of them failed to report out of committee.

SJ 213 (Howell D–32), SJ 214 (Ebbin D–30), and SJ 283 (McEachin D–9) were amendments to the Virginia Constitution that would have started the process of removing the gay marriage ban from the constitution. Changing the constitution is an extended process. As none of the current amendment proposals reported out of committee, the soonest the amendment could appear on the ballot is 2018, three years after the anticipated Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

Bills SB 682 (Ebbin D–30), HB 1288 (Simon D–53), and HB 1289 (Surovell D–44) would have repealed the statute that originally banned gay marriage back in 1975. None of them made it out of committee.

Delegate Hope (D–47) sponsored HB 1385 which would have prohibited subjecting minors to sexual orientation change efforts. It, too, was killed in committee.

Delegate Simon (D–53) sponsored HB 1600 which is similar to Senator Ebbin’s SB 1211. It also removes gendered language from the Code of Virginia. Unlike Senator Ebbin’s bill, Simon’s bill failed to report out of the House Civil Law subcommittee. Even with that loss, there was some promising news: Delegate Habeeb, the chairman of that committee, committed to bring HB 1600 to the very next Code Commission meeting.

Here’s a review from Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • SJ 213 (Howell D–32) – failed to report
  • SJ 214 (Ebbin D–30) – failed to report
  • SJ 283 (McEachin D–9) – failed to report
  • SB 682 (Ebbin D–30) – failed to report
  • HB 1288 (Simon D–53) – failed to report
  • HB 1289 (Surovell D–44) – failed to report
  • HB 1385 (Hope D–47) – failed to report
  • HB 1600 (Simon D–53) – failed to report

Thursday, January 29

Emotions were high on Thursday when HB 1414 (Marshall R–13), the “conscience clause” bill, finally made it onto a subcommittee docket. In addition to HB 1414, that same docket had three other bills we were supporting on it as well. HB 1454 (Simon D–53), HB 1498 (Plum D–36), and HB 1643 (Villanueva R–21). These three bills failed to report, but thankfully, HB 1414 also failed to report.

HB 1454 was a fair housing bill designed to prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals when seeking housing. HB 1498 and HB 1643 would have prohibited discrimination in public employment. During the public comments on House bills 1498 and 1643, the representative of the Family Foundation stated that there are three criteria for a group to be considered a protected class under federal law, such as in the Civil Rights Act (presumably the one passed in 1964). He then said that those three classifications are historical discrimination, political powerlessness, and economic inequality, and that LGBT people as a group don’t meet any of those criteria. We don’t agree with his legal analysis, and furthermore, it is worth noting that transgender individuals are more than twice as likely as the general population to be unemployed and those who are employed earn demonstrably less money than their cisgender peers.

The good news from Thursday was that HB 1414 failed to report out of the subcommittee. When the subcommittee chair asked for testimony in favor of the bill, no one volunteered to defend it. When the subcommittee killed it, we all let out a sigh of relief.

In some further good news, HB 1409 (Marshall R–13) was also killed by a subcommittee. That bill would have taken away the power of the governor to require state contractors not discriminate.

That night, HJ 546 (Sullivan D–48) and 648 (Villanueva R–21) also failed to report. HJ 546 would have asked several governmental bodies to study how to revise the Code of Virginia to remove gendered language. HJ 648 would have asked the Virginia Housing Commission to study the effects of housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • HB 1409 (Marshall R–13) – failed to report
  • HB 1414 (Marshall R–13) – failed to report
  • HB 1454 (Simon D–53) – failed to report
  • HB 1498 (Plum D–36) – failed to report
  • HB 1643 (Villanueva R–21) – failed to report
  • HJ 546 (Sullivan, Jr. D–48) – failed to report
  • HJ 648 (Villanueva R–21) – failed to report

It was a busy week
: we suffered some losses and celebrated some vital wins.  We were there every step of the way advocating for a fair and equal Virginia! Support our work at the General Assembly – donate today! 

Come Monday, we will have our eyes on the Senate Floor with hopes that SB 785 and SB 1211 pass.  Tuesday is our Day of Action, for those of you who have already signed up, we look forward to seeing you! Registration is now closed, but if you are able to join us from 5:30-7:30 for our annual Legislative Reception, please sign up here.

Thanks for following our weekly General Assembly updates. We hope they’re keeping you informed.


Equality Virginia Applauds House Subcommittee for Voting Against HB 1414

Bill would have allowed for blatant discrimination against LGBT individuals


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

RICHMOND – On Thursday, Delegate Bob Marshall’s  HB 1414, a bill that would have allowed any business or professional in Virginia to blatantly discriminate against LGBT people was tabled in a House of Delegates subcommitee.

“Equality Virginia applauds the subcommittee for voting against this discriminatory and destructive bill,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “This bill would have hurt too many people, damaged our business climate, and highlighted Virginia as a hostile and unwelcoming place to live and work.  The majority of Virginians agree that discrimination against LGBT people is wrong, and thankfully today’s vote reflects that opinion.”

Also in front of the same House subcommittee on Thursday were HB 1454, a bill introduced by Delegate Marcus Simon to end discrimination in housing, and identical bills HB 1498 (Delegate Ken Plum) and HB 1643 (Delegate Ron Villanueva) to end discrimination against LGBT public employees.   All three bills were tabled in subcommittee.

In better news for the LGBT community, earlier this week two Senate bills passed out of committee; the Senate is slated to vote on them either Friday or Monday.  SB 785, introduced by Senator Donald McEachin, would end discrimination against LGBT public employees; and SB 1211, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin, would clarify the Code of Virginia’s use of gender references and assure that the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples entering into marriage are clear.  Even if passed in the Senate, Equality Virginia does not expect either bill to succeed in the House of Delegates.

“As happy as we are that HB 1414 didn’t make it out of committee, today’s votes against fairness and non-discrimination make it clear that our work is far from over,” said Parrish.  “Even as a bill to protect LGBT public employees from workplace discrimination moves through the Senate, we expect the anti-LGBT majority in the House of Delegates to stall any progress.   We have also seen bills to ensure access to fair housing and to update the Code to accurately reflect marriage equality die on the spot.  The majority of Virginians believe in fairness and equality, and it is discouraging to see so many of our legislators unwilling to stand with them for what is right.”

Thursday evening, a House Rules subcommittee will hear two study bills that would impact the LGBT community.  HJ 546, a bill introduced by Delegate Rip Sullivan, would look at the issue of gender references in the code; and HJ 648, introduced by Delegate Ron Villanueva would ask the Virginia Housing Commission to study discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  In 2014, Housing Opportunities Made Equal conducted 29 matched-pair email tests using a methodology similar to that used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Testing results showed a 31 percent rate of differential treatment where same-sex couples were treated worse than different-sex couples, but a more extensive study is needed.




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.







Chris Sgro, Executive Director, Equality NC, (919) 720-8204, [email protected]
Jeff Ayers, Board Chair, SC Equality, (803) 546-9035, [email protected]
Kirsten Bokenkamp, Communications Director, Equality Virginia, [email protected]

On Thursday, January 29th, three southern lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organizations in North Carolina (Equality NC), South Carolina (SC Equality), and Virginia (Equality Virginia) will launch “Equality Means Business,” a coordinated, multistate campaign designed to showcase businesses that know how vital LGBT employees and customers are to their success in a modern economy.

Media are invited to attend “Equality Means Business” launch events across the three states.

In today’s economy, the majority of businesses know that opening their doors to LGBT clients and customers as well as ensuring their LGBT employees are not discriminated against is not only the right thing to do, but is also good for business.  With the goals of improving each state’s reputation as a welcoming place to live, work, and visit – as well as improving the lives of the more than 500,000 LGBT people who call these states home – Equality Means Business recognizes businesses that have policies to protect their LGBT employees from discrimination and have also pledged to welcome LGBT customers and clients.

In anticipation of the January 29th launch events, Equality NC, SC Equality, and Equality Virginia released the following joint statement, highlighting a business effort the organizations believe is generating much-needed momentum for LGBT equality in the South. Currently, there is no statewide law in place in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia to prohibit discrimination in employment or public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“In North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, from the historic cobblestone streets of Alexandria, to the financial districts of Charlotte, to the bustling waterfront of Charleston, we’ve witnessed businesses taking the lead in this historic moment for LGBT equality. Through Equality Means Business, we are proud to highlight businesses that have commonsense policies in place to ensure their doors are open to LGBT clients, customers, and employees.  Equality Means Business is also a tool for consumers to use if they want to ensure their patronage is supporting a business – or any place of public accommodation –  that is welcoming to LGBT people.”

 Supporting Quotes:

“We are thrilled to work with equality groups in North Carolina and South Carolina to launch this exciting program,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “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.”

“Equality is good for business, and businesses that support equality have a tremendous impact on the landscape of South Carolina,” said Jeff Ayers, Interim Executive Director of South Carolina Equality. “By being inclusive in their policies, protecting their employees from discrimination, and providing quality goods and services to all customers, these businesses make South Carolina a better place to live and work. They’re growing our state and showing our communities and neighbors that equal means everyone.”

“While the last year has seen historic gains for the nation, much of the South, and certainly right here in the Tarheel State, there remains great work to be done if we are to achieve full equality, both lived and legal,” said Chris Sgro, executive director, Equality NC.  “In North Carolina, you can still be fired for being gay or transgender. Right now, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering proposals to allow religious exceptions for business owners, service providers, and  even government officials who want to discriminate against LGBT citizens and customers. We know, however, that this is not where the people of North Carolina or members of its business community stand.”

As part of this coordinated launch, events will be held on Thursday, Jan. 29 at:


5:30-6:30 pm
16 W Hargett St
Raleigh, NC 27601
6:00 – 7:00 pm
1222 East Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28203
Artizan Art Gallery
5:30-6:30 pm
1217 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Decorum – The Palace Station and Shops
11:00 am
301 W 21st Street
Norfolk, VA 23517
Nacho Mama’s
5:30-6:30 pm
3449 W Cary Street
Richmond, VA 23221





For more information about Equality NC’s program, visit: www.equalitync.org/business

For more information about SC Equality’s program, visit: www.scequality.org/business

For more information about Equality Virginia’s program, visit: www.equalityvirginia.org/EMB



Equality Virginia:  We must end harmful and ineffective conversion therapy

Jan. 22, 2015 – For immediate release

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


In response to today’s vote in the Senate Committee on Education and Health to pass by SB 988, the following statement can be attributed to James Parrish, executive director, Equality Virginia:

“It is extremely disappointing that our lawmakers cannot come together in support of a bill that would protect Virginia’s LGBT youth.  We cannot continue to allow our youth to be put through this so-called “treatment” that can cause depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.  At best, allowing this harmful treatment on our youth is irresponsible, and at worse, it could contribute to the unthinkable.

All major health organizations agree that this therapy is not only ineffective, but is also harmful.  Homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder; prohibiting any health care provider from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with any person under 18 years of age is necessary to protect our youth as they come to terms with who they are.  Working with a strong coalition of organizations and individuals, Equality Virginia will continue to work to end this harmful practice.”




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.

Bill Protecting Virginia’s LGBT Public Employees Moves to Senate Floor

Equality Virginia Applauds Senate General Laws and Technology Committee for Passing SB 785

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 26, 2015

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

RICHMOND – On Monday, Senate Bill 785, a bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender public employees from workplace discrimination, was voted out of the General Laws and Technology Committee with an 8-7 vote, and will soon be scheduled on the Senate floor.

“We are glad the committee voted in support of fairness and equality, and hope to see this bill pass out of the Senate as well,” said James Parrish, executive director with Equality Virginia.  “As the majority of Fortune 500 corporations know, putting a policy in place to protect LGBT employees is not only the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.  It is time for Virginia to follow the lead of our business community by passing a law to protect LGBT public employees.”

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. Shortly after his inauguration, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order One that bans such discrimination.  This bill would make those protections permanent.

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

“Virginians want to live in a commonwealth that is welcoming and inclusive –and this bill is a step toward that ideal,” said Parrish.

Similar bills have been introduced in the House of Delegate by Delegate Ron Villanueva and Delegate Ken Plum. Those bills have been referred to the House Committee on General Laws but have not yet been put on a docket.

“With bi-partisan support for workplace fairness, the message is clear: it’s time to end workplace discrimination against LGBT Virginians.  By voting for this bill, our lawmakers can give LGBT Virginians equal opportunity for fairness and job security while showing that Virginia is a welcoming place live, work, and visit.” Parrish said.


YEAS: George Barker (D-39), Charles Colgan (D-29), Creigh Deeds (D-25), Adam Ebbin (D-30), Mamie Locke (D-02), Chap Peterson (D-34), Jill Vogel (R-27), Jennifer Wexton (D-33)

NAYS: Frank Ruff (R-15), Richard Black (R-13), Thomas Garret, Jr. (R-22), Stephen Martin (R-11), Bryce Reeves (R-17), Walter Stosch (R-12), Richard Stuart (R-28)

1/24/2015: This week at the General Assembly

 Friday updates graphic

The General Assembly session officially started Wednesday, January 14th. That evening, in his State of the Commonwealth address, Governor McAuliffe said that, “in a new Virginia economy, every person will have an equal right to succeed, regardless of his or her…sexual orientation.” Hearing his remarks – and knowing that the Governor of Virginia fully supports the LGBT community – was a heartening way to start session.

Before we get started with this week’s update, this year – for the very first time – we are glad to have a legislative fellow join us for these very busy weeks of session.  Ashley Moore, a recent law school graduate, will join Kirsten and James down at the General Assembly building and make sure that Equality Virginia seamlessly represents the views of Virginia’s LGBT community.  She’ll also be live tweeting as bills are heard – so make sure you follow us on Twitter to be the first to know!

Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed this week, not all of our legislators share Governor McAuliffe’s perspective when it comes to LGBT equality.  Last Thursday, things started to get busy.
  • SB 799, a bill introduced by Senator Favola (D–31) that would require Virginia’s law enforcement to report crimes against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity as hate crimes, quickly died in the Senate Court of Justice committee. We will see that bill come up again as Delegate Rip Sullivan (D–48) has introduced a similar bill in the House. Unfortunately, with the anti-LGBT led House of Delegates, we don’t have much hope for the House bill either.

Things really ramped up this week.  Here’s the breakdown:


  • HJ 492, introduced by Delegate Krupicka (D–45) & HJ 493, introduced by Delegate Surovell (D–44) are constitutional amendments to remove or update the language of the current anti-marriage amendment. These bills are important in that they will update Virginia’s constitution to reflect the law of the land. The bills were heard but the committee will not be voting on them until later this session.
  • Senator Wexton (D–33) introduced SB 917, a fair housing bill that would make discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity unlawful. This bill failed to report out of committee on a 7–7 vote. We will see a similar bill in the House of Delegates in upcoming weeks.


We held a press conference Tuesday, where we were pleased to have a number of pro-equality legislators speak to their bills. This is an historic year for us – we have received bi-partisan support and have had more than 20 pro-LGBT bills introduced by a dozen lawmakers! (Check out our GA page for more details).


Thursday saw us up early for committee meetings at 7:30 and 8:00.  Bills to ban sexual orientation change efforts were before House and Senate committees that morning.

  • HB 1385, introduced by Delegate Hope (D–47) was heard, but the committee did not yet vote.  (Unfortunately, we do not expect this extremely important bill that would protect Virginia’s LGBT children to  pass out of subcommittee);
  • SB 988, introduced by Senator Lucas (D–18), failed to pass committee.


  • Wrapping up the week, SB 679, a bill allowing for second parent adoption introduced by Senator Howell (D-32), was heard in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services committee. While there was a great deal of vocal support from the Democratic members of the committee, in the end, the bill failed to report by one vote.

This week has shown us that anti-LGBT leaders in both the House and the Senate are simply not willing to support Virginia’s LGBT community. We had a disappointing week but hope that next week will make a turn for the better.

As you can see, we sure have a lot on our plate.  Keep Equality Virginia at the General Assembly, and help support our advocacy and education efforts by donating today – we need your support!


  • Coming up on Monday are committee votes on workplace non-discrimination (SB 785 and SB 1181) bills, cleaning up the Code of Virginia to make references to husband and wife and mother and father gender neutral (SB 1211), and the House version of the hate crimes bill (HB 1494).
  • We also have our eyes on the lookout for HB 1409 and HB 1414, two discriminatory bills filed by Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13).  Those bills have not yet been assigned to a subcommittee, but we didn’t let that stop us from delivering a petition on Tuesday with 6,000 signature from Virginians in opposition to HB 1414.  We will do everything we can to stop that bill from passing.

If this week told us anything, it’s that your legislators need to hear from you
. If you haven’t already, make sure you tell your legislator where you stand when it comes to LGBT equality.

For an overview of where equality bills stand, please check out our General Assembly page.  If you want immediate updates about what’s going on in the General Assembly this session, you can follow us on Twitter.

Thanks for all your support and involvement – sometimes the road is bumpy – but we won’t stop working until Virginia is a welcoming and safe place for all LGBT individuals and families!

Equality Virginia’s Day of Action is coming up on Feb. 3!  Make sure you join us in Richmond! 

Virginia Lawmakers come together in support of bills to protect LGBT individuals and families

Jan. 20, 2015 – For immediate release
Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 202-957-6611


Richmond, VA – Nearly a dozen legislators came together on Tuesday in support of bills that would create a more welcoming and inclusive commonwealth for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Virginians.

“Even as Virginians continue to celebrate the freedom to marry, it is important to remember that LGBT Virginians are still discriminated against every day,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. “For example, many people are surprised to learn that LGBT Virginians can be fired from their job simply because of who they are.”

More than 20 bills to protect and welcome Virginia’s LGBT community have been filed for the 2015 session.  Such bills include those to protect LGBT public employees from discrimination in the workplace; ensure LGBT individuals are not discriminated against in housing; ensure that the children of LGBT parents have legal access to both of their parents; and protect Virginia’s youth from harmful efforts to change their sexual orientation.  There are also a number of bills that would clean up the Virginia code to accurately reflect the law that same-sex couples can now be married in Virginia.

“Equality Virginia is grateful to have bipartisan support for LGBT equality and is thankful to the legislators who are taking the lead on this issue,” said Parrish.

Next Monday, the Senate Committee on General Laws is slated to hear SB 785 (McEachin D-9) and SB 1211 (Ebbin D-30), identical bills that would end discrimination in the public workplace.    Delegate Ron Villanueva (R-21) and Delegate Ken Plum (D-36) have introduced identical workplace non-discrimination bills in the House.   Those bills have been referred to the Committee on General Laws.

“I am confident that next week we will do the right thing and support the non-discrimination bill when it comes before committee,” said Senator Donald McEachin. “All Virginians deserve equal opportunity, justice and fairness. Employees should be able to be confident that their performance on the job is the only standard by which they evaluated.”

Also next Monday, the Senate Committee on General Laws is expected to hear SB 1211, a bill that Senator Ebbin (D-30) introduced to revise certain gender-specific terms in the Code of Virginia to reflect the rights and responsibilities of same-sex married couples.  There is similar bill in the House of Delegates (HB 1600), introduced by Delegate Marcus Simon (D-53).

“Bills to clean up the code are common sense.  Virginia has gained the freedom to marry, and in order to ensure all married couples know their rights and responsibilities, we must update Virginia’s code,” said Parrish.

Even with marriage equality, second-parent adoption remains an important issue for many families in Virginia.  A second-parent adoption bill (SB 679), introduced by Senator Janet Howell (D-32), has been assigned to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.

“The second-parent adoption bill is simply about doing what best protects our children,” said Parrish. “We need to ensure that every child has legal access to both their parents when it is in the best interest of that child.”

On Monday, a fair housing bill (SB 917), introduced by Senator Jennifer Wexton (D-33) failed to report from Senate General Laws and Technology, with a 7-7 vote.  Delegate Marcus Simon introduced an identical bill (HB 1454) that has been referred to General Laws Committee; and Delegate Ron Villanueva introduced a bill to study discriminatory practices in housing (HJ 648) that has been referred to the Committee on Rules.

Equality Virginia is hopeful that some of the equality bills will pass the Senate, but expects all LGBT equality bills will be blocked by the House of Delegates.

“At the end of the day – you are either for discrimination, or you are against it.  It is unfortunate that many members in the House are so comfortable standing up for discrimination. Even as the majority of Virginians believe in LGBT equality and nondiscrimination, the House of Delegates continues to stand in the way of meaningful change,” said Parrish.

Equality Virginia will monitor LGBT bills through the 2015 General Assembly Session.  A complete list of bills followed by Equality Virginia can be found on Equality Virginia’s website: www.equalityvirginia.org



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.

134,000 people across the world urge Virginia to drop proposed anti-gay bill

All Out members and Equality Virginia join forces to oppose the anti-gay bill

If passed, the anti-gay law would allow doctors, teachers, and all companies to deny service to LGBT people


Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, Equality Virginia, [email protected]; 804.643-4816
Oscar Lopez, Campaigns Writer, [email protected]; +1 917-325-0968


Richmond, Virginia, USA – As members of the Virginia’s House of Delegates prepare to hear anti-LGBT bill,  134,000 All Out members globally including 40,000 in the USA and 7,000 in Virginia have spoken out against the proposed anti-gay bill.  Equality Virginia has partnered with All Out, a global movement for love and equality, to deliver the signatures from Virginians in opposition to the proposed bill.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia delivered the petition to Delegate Todd Gilbert’s office on Tuesday afternoon.  Delegate Gilbert is the chair of the House Committee on General Laws.

“If the proposed anti-gay law passes, it would allow doctors to turn away gay patients.  Movie theaters or restaurants could throw someone out just because they are perceived to be gay,” said Andre Banks, Executive Director of All Out. “This is discrimination, plain and simple.  134,000 All Out members in the state and around the world have spoken out to make sure the Committee takes urgent action to protect the state from this horrific law.  Anti-gay laws have no place in the world and certainly not in Virginia.”

The proposed law, HB 1414, was put forward by Republican delegate Bob Marshall. The bill sets out that lesbian, gay or bisexual people could be legally refused service by a private or public sector organisation because of “religious or moral convictions”. The law would apply to any public or private sector organisation certified, licensed, or registered with the Commonwealth of Virginia. This includes doctors, hospitals, schools, lawyers, teachers, bars, shops, hotels, and restaurants.

“This piece of legislation is extremist, hateful, and discriminatory,” said James Parrish, executive director with Equality Virginia.  “Businesses and service agencies that are open to the public should be open to everybody on the same terms, including to LGBT customers and clients. While we all have the freedom to practice the religion of our choosing, we cannot use those beliefs to discriminate against others.  Discrimination is wrong – it’s that simple.   Discrimination under the guise of religious freedom is still discrimination and Virginia is better than that.”

A number of legislators sitting on the House General Laws Committee are in opposition to the bill.

“I stand with many Virginians in support of the LGBT community. The continued advancement of our Commonwealth depends on equal opportunities for success for all citizens. HB 1414 does not help work towards this goal and is a step in the wrong direction,” said Delegate Betsy Carr.

More than a dozen other US states have proposed anti-gay laws that would allow discrimination in the name of “religion or moral convictions”,  Just last month, the Michigan Senate narrowly shut down another dangerous bill that would have given companies the right to say “no gays allowed”.

In Arizona, a bill was proposed to ban transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms in local businesses. After thousands of All Out members spoke out to local leaders, Arizona’s legislature dropped the bill.

HB 1414 has been assigned to the House Committee on General Laws and could be heard as early as this Thursday.


About All Out

In 76 countries, it is a crime to be gay; in 10 it can cost you your life. All Out is mobilising millions of people and their social networks to build a powerful global movement for love and equality. Our mission is to build a world where no person will have to sacrifice their family or freedom, safety or dignity, because of who they are or who they love.


About Equality Virginia

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.



[1] See All Out’s petition against Virginia’s anti-gay bill here.

[2] The full text of the bill can be seen here:




Legislators introduce wide range of bills affecting Virginia’s LGBT community


CONTACT: Kirsten Bokenkamp, Equality Virginia, [email protected]; 804-643-4816


What:              Press Conference on the 2015 LGBT Equality Agenda

When:             Tuesday, January 20th at 9 a.m.

Where:            General Assembly Building, House Briefing Room

Who:   James Parrish, Executive Director, Equality Virginia; Senator Adam Ebbin; Senator Barbara Favola; Senator Donald McEachin; Senator Jennifer Wexton; Delegate Patrick Hope, Delegate Rob Krupicka; Delegate Ken Plum; Delegate Marcus Simon; Delegate Scott Surovell.  Additional legislators have been invited to attend.

Why: The Legislators will discuss legislative priorities: ending discrimination in public employment and housing, including LGBT individuals in Virginia’s hate crime law, updating Virginia’s code to reflect marriage equality, and banning gay conversion therapy  for Virginia’s youth.


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.


Richmond-based Fortune 500 Companies awarded Virginia Fairness Accreditation

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

For immediate release: JAN. 8, 2015

RICHMOND – On Thursday, January 8, at the Virginia Fairness Reception in downtown Richmond, Equality Virginia will recognize five Richmond-based Fortune 500 companies — Altria, Capital One, CarMax, Dominion, and Genworth — for their commitment to making Virginia’s business climate conducive to economic success by encouraging and supporting diversity in the workplace.

“We have awarded these companies because they have policies in place that clearly welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees and protect them from discrimination in the workplace. These companies know that policies welcoming diversity and inclusion are not only good for business, but are the right thing to do,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.

Thursday’s reception will be hosted by Capital One at its offices in downtown Richmond. Capital One has been recognized on multiple occasions for its leadership in diversity and inclusion, and has been named among the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign.

“Diversity, equality, and inclusion are central to the Capital One culture, a culture that thrives because of the varying experiences, backgrounds and perspectives offered by our associates. We have strived to create an environment that reflects our customer base and the communities we serve, putting our differences to work to add value to the business,” said Lane Hopkins, managing VP, enterprise HR.  “From the programs and resources offered through our LGBT Associate Network, to a broad range of benefits and development opportunities, we are committed to fostering an environment where all our associates feel heard, valued and respected. We are very proud to be recognized by Equality Virginia.”

According to a 2012 Gallup poll, nearly three percent of Virginians identify as LGBT, and more than 4,000 children are being raised in Virginia in LGBT households.

“The families of today, including those of my colleagues at Genworth, reflect the great diversity that defines America. We are committed to supporting that diversity and creating an environment of inclusiveness for all of our employees,” said Marty Klein, chief financial officer of Genworth.   “It’s a commitment that also extends to our customers.  As a provider of insurance solutions that help families become more financially secure, self-reliant and prepared for the future, we are dedicated to helping all families protect those they love. This is a mission we at Genworth share with Equality Virginia, and we are proud to be part of it.”

Research shows many positive links between LGBT-supportive policies or workplace climates and outcomes that will benefit employers.  For example, such policies are linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among LGBT employees.

“At Dominion, we want to attract and retain the best employees,” said Shannon Venable, vice president-Staffing & Diversity. “I think this recognition demonstrates that Dominion is committed to providing a respectful and inclusive work environment for all of its employees – which is fundamental to attracting and retaining the best.”

Creating an atmosphere where LGBT employees feel valued is a priority of many businesses today.  The companies being recognized by Equality Virginia go above and beyond by creating non-discrimination policies that protect all of their employees, while at the same time fostering inclusive workplace environments.

“A culture of diversity and inclusion brings out the best in our people,” said Charlie Whitaker, Sr. vice president of Human Resources and Compliance for Altria.  “Leaders who seek and value differences help everyone feel included, heard and challenged to contribute.  As we continue to sharpen our focus on diversity and inclusion at Altria, we are proud to be recognized as an inclusive company by Equality Virginia.”

“At CarMax, our approach to diversity and inclusion comes down to one thing: respect. That respect is woven into the way we recruit, hire, train and do business,” said Kim Ross, assistant vice president, diversity and corporate human resources at CarMax. “We welcome and value the individuality, ideas and contributions of our associates, customers and vendors.”

Together with Governor Terry McAuliffe and staff members from Equality Virginia, leaders and staff from each of the accredited companies plan to attend Thursday’s reception.

“These companies are leading Virginia forward, and the Virginia Fairness accreditation is one way we can celebrate them for being leaders,” said Parrish.  “Recognizing these companies at this particular time in history is especially meaningful because even with marriage equality, there is currently no state law in Virginia to protect public employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  These companies are setting the standard when it comes to promoting inclusivity, strengthening Virginia’s ability to recruit and retain a talented workforce and ensuring that Virginia is a welcoming place to live, work, and visit.”


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.