What happened in Fairfax last week…
By James Parrish, executive director Last Thursday I was at the Fairfax County School Board meeting where they voted 10-1 to update their non-discrimination policy to include gender identity. This is the first time employees of a Virginia school system are covered by a non-discrimination policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. I would call this vote to update their policy remarkable except for the fact that Virginia's leading corporations have had non-discrimination policies like this in place for years. Why? Because it helps them retain the best and the brightest, is good for business, and it's the right thing to do. The truth is that all Virginia's public employees and students should be protected from discrimination. Even still, this policy update in Fairfax is a huge step forward for Virginia and something we are celebrating.
This vote didn’t happen without you. Thank you to all of our supporters and community partners in Fairfax including POFEV, PFLAG, Fairfax County NAACP, and NOVA Pride, for supporting the Fairfax County School Board leading up to the vote. With your help, more than 2,000 emails were sent to the board from Fairfax constituents. Your advocacy made a difference.
Leading up to the vote, there was a lot of energy on both sides, reminding us of how hard we still need to work to change hearts and minds. I was particularly disappointed to see the chairman of the Fairfax Republican party turn this into a partisan issue. Protecting people from discrimination in the workplace isn’t a partisan issue. We all live by the golden rule of treat others as you would like to be treated. Gay and transgender Virginians are part of every family in our commonwealth, and just like everybody else they should be evaluated on their merits, not who they love or how they identify.
I also saw a lot of parents and community members passionately speak against updating Fairfax's non-discrimination policy. Conversations about what it means to be transgender are new to many of us, and I understand how it can be confusing. However, hundreds of cities, counties, and states have already implemented policies to protect transgender people from discrimination with no negative consequences. These policies help build understanding and consensus that discrimination is wrong - period. Another part of the equation is connecting members of our transgender community to the community at large. Understanding, acceptance, and affirmation will only grow as more of us get to know transgender people. Click here to see some of the ways EV is connecting communities and building understanding.
You see, this is a large part of what we do at Equality Virginia. Throughout the commonwealth, we are behind the scenes connecting our partners on the ground with community members, resources, and best practices. Our work is taking place in board rooms and offices - from local school systems, to Governor McAuliffe's and Attorney General Herring's administrations. Even when our work isn't covered on the front page of the morning paper, we are actively working with communities throughout Virginia to bring LGBT equality home. Thanks for all your support that enables us to do this important work.
I was happy to be in Fairfax to see the vote on this positive policy update. It is great to witness positive change in our communities. Congratulations Fairfax - you are leading Virginia forward!