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Efforts to repeal Virginia marriage amendment blocked

Adam Ebbin, Alexandria, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in November introduced a resolution that sought to repeal a state constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Virginia lawmakers this year will not consider proposed resolutions that sought to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

State Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the Virginia House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee, on Jan. 9 announced it will not hear any so-called first reference constitutional amendments during the 2014 legislative session. He said his committee will instead consider them next year.

“Virginia Republicans refusal to even consider same-sex marriage is backwards and proving increasingly archaic,” said state Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) in a Monday press release that announced Cole’s decision. “Marriage is about loving, committed couples who want to make a lifelong promise to take care of and be responsible for each other, in good times and bad.”

A House subcommittee last year killed Surovell’s proposed resolution that sought to repeal the marriage amendment that Virginia voters approved by a 57-43 percent margin in 2006. The Fairfax County Democrat on Jan. 8 introduced a bill that would repeal the commonwealth’s statutory ban on marriages and civil unions for same-sex couples.

“Virginians are ready to repeal the Marshall-Newman amendment,” said gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) earlier on Monday during a Richmond press conference at which state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County), state Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County), Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish and Rev. Robin Gorsline of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia discussed their 2014 legislative priorities. “This unfair and discriminatory law denies loving couples the chance to build a life together, throwing up burdens that straight couples never have to face.”

The Richmond press conference took place two days after Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office.

The former Democratic National Committee chair on Saturday signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT state employees.

McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban in two federal lawsuits that challenge it.

Other 2014 legislative priorities for LGBT rights advocates include McEachin’s bill that would ban discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The Henrico County Democrat has also introduced a measure that would allow public colleges and universities and municipalities to offer benefits to their employees’ same-sex partners.

“Discrimination is wrong, and we should be doing more to prevent it,” said McEachin on Monday.

State Dels. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) have introduced measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. Simon and state Del. Joseph Yost (R-Giles County) have also proposed bills that seek to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

Yost and state Del. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians. Hope on Monday formally put forth a measure that would ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in Virginia.

Cole did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

13
Jan
2014

Virginia lawmakers kill two pro-LGBT bills

A. Donald McEachin, Henrico County, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-HenricoCounty) introduced a bill that would have banned anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Virginia lawmakers on Monday killed two bills that sought to extend rights to LGBT Virginians.

Members of the Virginia House of Delegates Civil Law Subcommittee in a 4-5 vote struck down a proposal that would have repealed the state’s statutory same-sex marriage ban.

State Dels. Gregory Habeeb (R-Salem), David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), Mark Keam (D-Fairfax County) and G. M. (Manoli) Loupassi (R-Richmond) voted for House Bill 939 that state Del Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) introduced earlier this month. State Dels. Randall Minchew (R-Loudoun County), Terry Kilgore (R-Scott County), A. Benton Chafin (R-Russell County), Jeffrey Campbell (R-Smyth County) and James Leftwich (R-Chesapeake) opposed the measure.

State Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) was not present for the vote due to a death in her family.

“We’re making progress in changing people’s opinion,” Surovell told the Washington Blade after the vote, noting two Republicans supported HB 939. “Five years ago I’m not sure Republicans would have felt comfortable voting for the bill.”

Members of the Virginia Senate General Laws and Technology Committee on Monday in a 7-7 vote struck down a bill state Sens. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

Ebbin along with state Sens. George Barker (D-Alexandria), Charles Colgan (D-Manassas), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax County), Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) voted for Senate Bill 248. Committee Chair Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg County) voted against the measure alongside Walter Stosch (R-Henrico County,) Stephen Martin (R-Chesterfield County), Richard Stuart (R-Westmoreland County), Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Bryce Reeves (R-Fredericksburg) and Thomas Garrett (R-Goochland County).

“These senators refuse to acknowledge what the Virginia public and business community have long understood: protecting LGBT employees is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense and will contribute to the overall success of the commonwealth,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement after the SB 248 vote.

The House Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee last January killed Surovell’s proposed resolution that sought to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. State Del Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), chair of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, on Jan. 9 announced lawmakers will not consider any proposals seeking to repeal the state’s gay nuptials prohibition during the 2014 legislative session.

State Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) earlier this month introduced a proposed resolution that sought to amend the state constitution to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Virginia. The Alexandria Democrat’s proposal would have also allowed the commonwealth to recognize gay nuptials legally performed in Maryland, D.C. and other jurisdictions.

A hearing in a federal lawsuit that challenges Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is scheduled to take place in Norfolk on Jan. 30. The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Virginia in August filed a class action federal lawsuit on behalf of two lesbian couples from the Shenandoah Valley who are seeking marriage rights in the commonwealth.

It remains unclear whether Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring — both of whom publicly support nuptials for gays and lesbians — will defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

The first executive order that McAuliffe signed after taking office on Jan. 11 bans discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The Virginia Senate last January by a 24-16 vote margin approved McEachin’s bill that sought to ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees. A House subcommittee subsequently killed the proposal.

“Last year, a very similar bill passed the full Senate last year with bipartisan support,” said McEachin on Monday. “This year, Republicans wouldn’t even let it out of committee. I am bitterly disappointed to see us regressing. State employees — like all workers — deserve to know that they’re being judged on the merits, and not irrelevant details from their personal lives.”

State Dels. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) have introduced measures that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. Simon has also put forth a bill that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

20
Jan
2014

‘It’s a new day’ in Virginia politics

Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe takes office three days after the 2014 legislative session begins. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Efforts to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and repeal a state constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex marriage are among the priorities for Virginia LGBT rights advocates during the 2014 legislative session that begins on Wednesday.

State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) has once again introduced a bill that would ban discrimination against state employees based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The state Senate last January approved the measure by a 24-16 vote margin, but a Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee subsequently killed it. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly said the first executive order he will issue once he takes office on Saturday is a ban on anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

“We definitely want to continue that momentum,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish.

McEachin, state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County) and state Dels. Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico County), Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County), Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), Ken Plum (D-Fairfax County) and Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) have sponsored proposed resolutions that would seek a repeal of the commonwealth’s same-sex marriage ban that voters in 2006 approved by a 57-43 percent margin. Howell and state Del. Joseph Yost (D-Giles County) are expected to introduce bills in their respective chambers that would extend second-parent adoption rights to gays and lesbians.

Parrish told the Blade that more than 50 families have already said they want to testify in support of the measure.

“We expect that to be a big bill in the House and in the Senate,” he said.

State Del.-elect Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) has pre-filed a bill that would ban anti-LGBT employment discrimination in the commonwealth. State Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach) has introduced an identical measure.

Simon has also proposed a measure that seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the Virginia Fair Housing Law.

State Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) next week is expected to introduce a bill that would ban so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy to minors in the commonwealth.

The Alliance for Progressive Values has worked with the Arlington County Democrat to write the bill that Ebbin is expected to introduce in the Senate.

Hope told the Blade on Tuesday similar bills that California Gov. Jerry Brown and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law last year “certainly inspired me that this is the right time to bring this to Virginia.”

Parrish said Equality Virginia would support the proposal, but Hope conceded it will likely face resistance.

“This is an uphill battle,” he said. “This is Virginia that we’re talking about, so I expect some stiff opposition and some hurdles.”

Christopher Doyle, director of the Maryland-based International Healing Foundation, singled out the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations that oppose “ex-gay” therapy for encouraging Hope and other state lawmakers to introduce measures that seek to ban the controversial practice.

“No one has ever tried to ban a specific therapeutic modality for any mental health issues,” Doyle told the Blade. “The foundations of the bill are incorrect and politicians are being misinformed and deceived.”

Krupicka and state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Fairfax County) have introduced bills that would allow the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to issue license plates to Equality Virginia supporters that contain the slogan “Equality for All.”

Parrish said his group will also oppose a measure state Del. Bob Marshall (D-Prince William County) introduced that would require married same-sex couples to file their Virginia income tax returns as single individuals because the commonwealth does not recognize their unions. This measure seeks to codify the policy outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in November.

“We have been reaching out to the new administration though about what we can possibly do about that very punitive tax opinion that came out of the [outgoing Gov. Bob] McDonnell administration,” said Parrish.

The 2014 legislative session will begin three days before McAuliffe, Lieutenant Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and Attorney General-elect Mark Herring take office.

All three men publicly support marriage rights for same-sex couples. It remains unclear whether McAuliffe and Herring will defend Virginia’s gay marriage ban in two federal lawsuits that challenge it.

“It’s a new day,” Ebbin told the Blade as he discussed McAuliffe, Northam and Herring. “We’ll be dealing with people who are looking to help us instead of looking to harm and stymie us.”

Parrish said the tone from the governor and the attorney general’s offices will be “a 180” compared to McDonnell and outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He added the House will continue to remain a barrier to advancing LGBT-specific legislation during this legislative session.

“Now that we have a friendly administration in the governor and the attorney general’s office, it will allow us to better make the narrative that the Senate and the governor and the attorney general and the Virginia public are all on the same page,” said Parrish. “And it’s the House of Delegates that’s blocked any forward movement for the LGBT community.”

08
Jan
2014

Md., Va. to tackle bias, trans rights as lawmakers return

Gay News, Washington Blade, Carrie Evans, Gay Maryland

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia will consider a number of LGBT-specific issues during their respective legislative sessions that began on Wednesday.

Maryland legislators are likely to consider a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. The Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee last April because Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (D-Prince George’s and Calvert Counties) reportedly blocked a vote on it.

Miller has publicly backed the proposed measure that gay state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) will formally sponsor. He and state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) are expected to champion the bill in the chamber.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who signed the state’s first anti-trans discrimination law in 2002 when he was the mayor of Baltimore, also backs the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act.

“We’re very optimistic this year because the world has changed,” Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer told the Washington Blade. “The attitudes of not only the voters who proved on Nov. 6 that they’re supportive of progressive issues such as marriage equality and the Dream Act, but also the legislators have noticed that and are feeling a little bit emboldened.”

Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans shared Beyer’s optimism.

The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality has grown to include CASA de Maryland, Progressive Maryland and 17 other organizations. Equality Maryland has posted a petition on its website in support of the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act

Evans said this group is “modeling ourselves off of the” campaign in support of the same-sex marriage referendum that passed last November by a 52-48 percent margin.

“We have an incredible window here in 2013 with the strength of the coalition, the good feelings everybody has about Equality Maryland,” she said. “We are going full surge ahead and hopefully passing this once and for all in 2013.”

A proposed assault weapons ban in the wake of the Dec. 14 massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 20 students and six administrators dead and efforts to repeal the state’s death penalty are among the issues expected to dominate this year’s legislative agenda in Annapolis, but Evans highlighted other issues on which she and other advocates hope to work in the coming year.

These include working with Attorney General Doug Gansler and other officials to ensure the state’s same-sex marriage law that took effect on Jan. 1 is properly implemented. She pointed to insurance and tax-related issues for same-sex couples and making sure state agencies have provisions that include gender-neutral references are top priorities.

Evans said she expects most of these changes will take place through new regulations or administrative tweaks, but “they are working on answering the question of redoing all of the areas of state law and what needs to be done legislatively. Strengthening Maryland’s anti-bullying laws is another priority.

“The problem has always been making sure once the law is passed it is implemented at all levels,” Evans said.

Va. bill would ban anti-LGBT bias

Virginia lawmakers are expected to consider a measure during their legislative session that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

State Sens. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced Senate Bill 701 last October. The state Senate passed similar measures in 2010 and 2011, but they stalled in the House of Delegates.

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Blade last November that SB 701’s chances of passing in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates this year are “very slim.”

“While our biggest challenge is the House of Delegates, this will be an opportunity to get legislators on the record for pro-LGBT legislation and see if they are really supporting equality and their constituency this election year,” he said.

Adam Ebbin, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin is a Senate Bill 710 co-sponsor (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Ebbin told the Blade he expects the Senate General Law Committee could potentially hear SB 701 in the coming weeks.

“The bill has passed the Senate before, but failed in the General Laws and Technology Committee last session,” he said. “It’s a sometimes challenging environment because there’s Republican control of that committee, but we’re working hard and hope there will be a breakthrough this year.”

Del. legislators expected to debate marriage

Delaware lawmakers are expected to consider a same-sex marriage bill between now and the end of their current legislative session on June 30.

Gov. Jack Markell, who signed the state’s civil unions law in 2011, suggested to the Huffington Post last August that state lawmakers could debate a measure that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot this year.

Spokesperson Catherine Rossi reiterated that point to the Blade.

“The governor expects that a marriage equality bill will be worked this session,” she said.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) described efforts to place a same-sex marriage bill on the 2013 legislative agenda as a “no-brainer” during an interview with the News-Journal on Tuesday. House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) added she expects Senate Majority Leader Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and state Rep. Melanie George Smith (D-Bear) to introduce the measure.

Both legislators co-sponsored the civil unions bill.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in neighboring Maryland and eight other states and D.C. Lawmakers in New Jersey, Illinois and Rhode Island are expected to consider similar measures in the coming weeks.

09
Jan
2013

BREAKING: Non-discrimination bill passes in Va. Senate

Adam Ebbin, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin is a Senate Bill 701 co-sponsor (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

The Virginia Senate on Friday approved a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination against state employees.

The 24-16 vote came four days after the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee narrowly approved Senate Bill 701.

“No state employee should ever doubt Virginia’s commitment to equal opportunity employment for all,”gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria,) who co-sponsored SB 701 with Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) said as he spoke in support of the measure on the Senate floor. “This bill assures state employees that they will be judged solely on their merits and that discrimination has no place in Virginia.”

State Sens. Jill Hotzman Vogel (R-Fauquier,) John Watkins (R-Powhatan,) Thomas Norment (R-Williamsburg) and Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) are the four GOP legislators who voted for SB 701. Democratic Sens. Kenneth Alexander, George Barker, R. Creigh Deeds, John Edwards, Barbara Favola, Mark Herring, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, David Marsden, Henry L. Marsh III, John Miller, Ralph Northam, Phillip Puckett, Linda Puller, Richard Saslaw, Charles Colgan, Chap Petersen, and Louise Lucas also backed the measure alongside Ebbin and McEachin.

“In Virginia, LGBT protections will not pass without bi-partisan support,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish said. “We are pleased that four Republican senators joined their Democratic colleagues in passing SB701 to protect LGBT state employees. In the private sector, workplace protections are shown to decrease legal vulnerability while enhancing the employer’s reputation, increasing job satisfaction and boosting employee morale and productivity.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who in 2005 signed an executive order as governor that banned anti-gay discrimination against state employees, also applauded the state Senate for approving SB 701.

“I was proud to be the first Virginia governor to protect gay workers at state agencies from discrimination in hiring and promotions. I viewed it as a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining top talent across state government,” he said in a statement. “Today, the principals of equal opportunity and fairness represent official policy for virtually every major employer in Virginia and across the country. I am very, very pleased today to see the Virginia Senate approve this commonsense protection for Virginia’s LGBT workers, making equal opportunity for state and local government employees a permanent part of the Code of Virginia so that it does not have to be renewed every four years through an executive order.”

In spite of the Senate’s approval of SB 710, the measure faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

Parrish told the Blade last year that its chances of passing in the chamber this year remain “very slim.”

“Making sure elected official hear LGBT issues are important to all Virginians is the most important thing any citizen can do to open hearts and minds across the state,” he said in reference to Equality Virginia’s annual Lobby Day that will take place in Richmond on Tuesday. “We’re very fortunate the Senators that voted in support today are listening to their constituents.”

25
Jan
2013

More than 100 attend Equality Virginia lobby day

Equality Virginia, Richmond, gay news, Washington Blade

Equality Virginia supporters gather on the steps of the state capitol building in Richmond on Jan. 29. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

RICHMOND, Va.—Dozens of advocates from across the commonwealth gathered in the state capital on Tuesday for Equality Virginia’s annual legislative lobby day.

They spoke with lawmakers in support of Senate Bill 701, which would ban discrimination against LGBT state employees. Advocates also sought backing for measures that would define bullying in Virginia and require school districts to adopt policies that specifically prohibit students and school employees from engaging in it.

They lobbied against House Bill 1617 that would prohibit publicly funded colleges and universities from discriminating against any student group based on their “religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the organization or group’s speech.”

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Washington Blade during an interview at the Library of Virginia that the measure state Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced “sounds very well-meaning.” He added his organization sees “the flip side of that as saying colleges have to fund organizations that willingly discriminate,” while referring to the controversy over the Boy Scouts of America’s long-standing ban on openly gay scouts and scoutmasters.

“Equality Virginia believes it is not our place to tell private organizations what to do,” Parrish said. “It is our place to say public dollars shouldn’t fund those organizations.”

Aside from advocating for or against specific measures, advocates also attended workshops on a variety of topics that included the lack of legal protections for LGBT Virginians and transgender advocacy in the commonwealth. Congressman Bobby Scott, state Dels. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria) and Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Richmond City Council President Charles Samuels are among those who attended a post-lobby day reception at the Library of Virginia.

Parrish also announced that Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker will deliver the keynote address at Equality Virginia’s annual Commonwealth Dinner in Richmond on April 6.

“It’s an important issue to address — LGBT rights in general,” Fredericksburg attorney Jessica Jeanty told the Washington Blade. She met with state Del. Robert Orrock (R-Spotsylvania) and a legislative aide to state Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) earlier in the day. “I was looking for a way to get involved, especially a way to get involved that’s effective. I think reaching out to state legislators is one of the most effective ways to make a difference in this area.”

The gathering took place four days after the state Senate passed SB 701 by a 24-16 vote margin. The Republican-controlled House of Delegates on Jan. 15 overwhelmingly approved gay interim Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judgeship after blocking his nomination during a late-night vote last May that sparked outrage among LGBT advocates.

SB 701 faces an uphill battle in the House of Delegates, but state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) told the Blade during an interview at his capitol office that he remains optimistic about the measure’s prospects in light of Thorne-Begland’s appointment.

“I’d like to believe there’s a new sense of enlightenment in the House,” he said. “I’m hopeful that same sense of enlightenment will continue. The bill is all about fairness; it’s all about making sure that no one in the state workforce should have to worry about being discriminated against because of who they are. And to that end, it’s something that Fortune 500 companies do that call Virginia home, so I’m hopeful the House will look at the totality of the circumstances and see a way to pass it.”

A. Donald McEachin, Henrico County, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ebbin, who co-sponsored SB 701 with McEachin, said the four Republicans who voted for SB 701 indicate “we may do a little better in the House.”

“The subcommittee of the General Laws Committee we’ll go to has proved a very formidable obstacle in the past,” he conceded, while acknowledging the fact four Republican senators who voted for SB 701 indicate it may fair slightly better in the House than in previous years. “I’ve brought this forward every year since the Kaine administration and I’m committed to continuing to do so. We’re chipping away and I think eventually this will pass; eventually.”

Senate subcommittee approves ‘love shack’ bill

Ebbin spoke with the Blade hours after the Senate Courts of Justice Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 939, which would repeal an 1873 law that criminalizes unmarried couples who live together.

Gov. Bob McDonnell told WTOP radio on Tuesday he supports the so-called “Love Shack” measure in spite of his views toward “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators” he expressed in his master’s thesis he wrote while attending Regent University in Virginia Beach. Ebbin said he remains “confident” that SB 939 will pass in the full Senate in the coming days.

“At this date, the House needs to acknowledge the reality of the 21st century,” he said. “I’m very optimistic they will.”

“Equality Virginia definitely supports getting rid of all these bills that are constitutionally irrelevant,” Parrish added. “We’re for getting all those laws off the books.”

Advocates: Va. LGBT rights movement continues to make strides

A House of Delegates subcommittee earlier this month killed a proposal that would have repealed the commonwealth’s voter-approved constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, but advocates maintain SB 701 and Thorne-Begland’s appointment prove the state’s LGBT rights movement continues to move forward.

“It is definitely progress, especially since both were so difficult,” Jeanty said. “I was shocked to hear that there was any kind of contention about Tracy Thorne-Begland at all, so to see that he finally has a full-time judgeship is great. I think that’s progress. I also think that SB 701 is progress, but I think there’s much more to go. There are many more bills that need to be passed. It’s a little bit of progress, but we still need more.”

Joyce Scher, co-founder of Mothers and Others of Virginia, agreed.

“I’m thrilled about Tracy, just absolutely thrilled,” she told the Blade during the Equality Virginia reception. “Sorry that everybody had to work so hard because he was so worthy of having that job.”

Ebbin, who is the first openly gay person elected to the Virginia Legislature, said he feels his Richmond colleagues have begun to respond favorably to LGBT-specific issues.

“I don’t bring up gay issues with everyone, but I think just being here — and they know who I am, does make a difference and over time things can only get better,” Ebbin said. “People say how can you stand being in Richmond. I say I love being here knowing that I can grab that microphone anytime I want when people say anything that needs to be reacted to. There’s no place I’d rather be than watching Virginia wake up from history.”

30
Jan
2013

Va. House subcommittee tables anti-LGBT discrimination bill

A. Donald McEachin, Henrico County, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee on Tuesday tabled a bill that would have banned discrimination against LGBT state employees.

The House General Laws Subcommittee on Professions/Occupations and Administrative Process killed Senate Bill 701 nearly three weeks after the state Senate approved the measure.

“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.”

Anna Scholl, executive director of ProgressVA, also criticized lawmakers who killed SB 701.

“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,” she said. “No citizen should fear the loss of their livelihood because of who they are and who they love..”

State Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) co-sponsored the measure.

“I am extremely disappointed and dismayed that the members of the House of Delegates subcommittee, along party lines, refused to offer equal protection and simple fairness to all citizens of Virginia,” McEachin told the Washington Blade. “All Virginians deserve equal opportunity and justice and to be judged by their performance on the job, not by another other irrelevant characteristics.”

13
Feb
2013

Gay Va. judge sworn in

Tracy Thone-Begland, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Tracy Thorne-Begland during his official swearing in in Richmond on Friday. (Courtesy photo)

Virginia’s first openly gay judge was officially sworn in on Friday.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland’s investiture took place inside the Richmond City Council’s chambers. The former prosecutor’s 8-year-old twins Chance and Logan straightened their father’s black robe as his partner, Michael Thorne-Begland, looked on. Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, state Sens. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico,) state Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones are among the more than 200 people who attended the ceremony.

“It was a very moving ceremony,” Ebbin told the Washington Blade.

The Republican-controlled House of Delegates last May blocked Thorne-Begland’s nomination to the Richmond General Court after state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) alleged he misrepresented himself when he failed to disclose his sexual orientation when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the late 1980s. Thorne-Begland, who came out during a 1992 “Nightline” interview in which he criticized the Pentagon’s ban on gay servicemembers, received an honorable discharge two years later.

The Richmond General Court last June appointed Thorne-Begland on an interim basis because lawmakers failed to fill the vacancy. The House of Delegates in January approved his judgeship in a 66-28 vote.

Thorne-Begland, who is a former Equality Virginia boardmember, did not return the Blade’s request for comment. He responded to questions about his previous advocacy before a House of Delegates committee in January approved his judgeship.

“Since I left the military, I’ve worked with Equality Virginia and I advocated for such radical things as expanding the right to health care for someone to be able to get insurance for their partner,” he said. “I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t one day want the opportunity to marry my partner. We married 15 years ago in an Episcopal church across the street from our house. I’d like that to happen, but that’s not my role as a judge. I will well and dutifully follow the rules, the laws and the regulations. I know that when I put on a black robe and even when I take that robe off and go home that I am held to a different standard of an everyday citizen.”

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, applauded Thorne-Begland after his swearing in ceremony.

“Upon the House of Delegates taking a second look at his nomination, we’re glad the decision was made on his qualifications as a candidate and not on who he is or who he loves,” he said. “That’s what we hope for any LGBT Virginian. We congratulate him on this next step in his career.”

Ebbin agreed.

“I’ve known Tracy Thorne-Begland for many years and I’m confident that his tenure will break down stereotypes and make it clear that a gay person can not only adequately perform at the highest levels and excel in those circumstances,” he said. “It’s an exciting day for Virginia.”

02
Mar
2013