By Maia Stanley
The day after hundreds lobbied lawmakers on behalf of LGBTQ rights during Equality Virginia’s Day of Action, two significant bills advanced in the General Assembly to further protections for the state’s LGBTQ residents.
The House passed a bill from Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, on Wednesday to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, insurance and banking.
A Senate bill introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, reported from committee that adds gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability as reportable hate crimes. Victims would be able to bring civil action to recover damages against their offender.
Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, was “cautiously optimistic” at the start of the legislative session but said Tuesday during the organization’s annual lobby event that there is much to celebrate.
Lamneck noted that most of the bills supported by Equality Virginia, a group that advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community, are still alive and advancing. Last session most of those bills failed to pass from Republican-led subcommittees.
“This legislation will ensure that people are not discriminated against in housing, employment, public spaces and credit,” Lamneck said.
LGBTQ youth showed up to make their voices heard too. Side by Side, a group dedicated to creating supportive communities for LGBTQ youth, helped sponsor the event.
“We want them to see that it’s easy and accessible and what it’s like to actually be involved in the legislative process,” said Emma Yackso, director of youth programs and services for Side by Side. “A lot of them for many, many reasons don’t feel like they belong in government, don’t feel like their voices are actually ever going to be listened to.”
Groups visited legislators to discuss LGBTQ-related causes such as conversion therapy, housing instability, religious liberty, protection from discrimination and the vulnerability of African American transgender communities.
“We know that people who live at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities often face the most discrimination, harassment, and, unfortunately, sometimes violence as well,” Lamneck said.
The lobbying event was followed by an afternoon of workshops at the Library of Virginia and a reception to thank lawmakers.
Some of the legislation that has advanced in the General Assembly — mostly with bipartisan support — includes two bills introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. Senate Bill 657 would make it easier to change a person’s name and gender on a birth certificate. SB 161 would make the Department of Education create and implement policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public schools; a duplicate bill in the House also passed.
The Senate also passed SB 245, introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, which would ban the practice of conversion therapy in Virginia on patients under age 18. A similar bill introduced by Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, recently passed the House. On Tuesday, the House passed a health care bill introduced by Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or status as a transgender individual.
Advocates also celebrated that two bills referred to as the Virginia Values Act have made it to the floors of their respective chambers: SB 868, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and HB 1663, introduced by Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax. Both would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, credit transactions, employment and public spaces.
“We speak with many individuals from across the Commonwealth who have shared with us their experiences of discrimination,” Lamneck said. “And not just that, but the fact that they live in fear, day to day experiencing discrimination and so the Virginia Values Act will have a profoundly positive impact on the community.”
Gov. Ralph Northam and Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, attended an evening reception to wrap up the Day of Action.
“This session we are going to ensure it is no longer legal in Virginia to discriminate against someone because of who they love,” Filler-Corn tweeted.
Two House bills that add gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation as reportable hate crimes and a House bill replacing terms such as “husband and wife” with gender-neutral terms have yet to advance through their respective committees prior to crossover day on Feb. 11.
Businesses Unite to Bring Change to Monument Avenue
“We believe inclusion is integral to the strength of our organizations, and that symbols antithetical to equality, equity, and unity harm our employees and community.”
The Monument Commitment is a pledge by Richmond employers to work for change not only along Monument Avenue but in the community.
RVAHub is proud to stand with the businesses below.
If you would like to learn how to add your organization to this commitment email: [email protected]
The pledge reads:
Governor Northam, Mayor Stoney, City Council Members:
We are employers of the Richmond community.
We believe inclusion is integral to the strength of our organizations, and that symbols antithetical to equality, equity, and unity harm our employees and community.
We ask that you commit to support the respectful removal of all the confederate monuments on Monument Avenue in coming months, and do not repair – other than for public safety – the monuments as they currently stand.
For our part, we commit to confronting racism in our organizations and supporting you in eradicating systemic racism in our community.
It is time to take them all down.
Please note we created this post on Friday morning and since businesses are being added constantly some businesses might not be on the list above. This is not a statement against those businesses just an inability to keep up. This link will give you the most current list of those that have made the commitment.
Wayback RVA — Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics Savings Bank
A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.
The Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics
Savings Bank, Mr. Jno. Mitchell Jr., Pres.
- Souvenir Views Negro Enterprises and Residences, Richmond, Va. D. A. Ferguson & Co. 1907.
- Richmond Planet masthead.
- Logo, Order of the Knights of Pythias.
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 3.
- [RTD] John Mitchell Jr. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Michael Paul Williams February 21, 1996.
- 311 North Fourth Street.
John Mitchell Jr. was aptly described as “a man who would walk into the jaws of death to serve his race.” Mitchell – newspaper editor, entrepreneur, city councilman and candidate for governor – was one of the most respected black leaders of his day. [RTD]
A fascinating individual. The Shockoe Examiner has an interesting post from 2012 about Mitchell’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery. Alas for the old bank building, it’s former location now rests under the Richmond Convention Center.
(Old Pythian Hall and Mechanics Savings Bank is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
Black Bear’s Visit to Richmond Comes to a Safe End
No picnic baskets, bears, dogs, cats, or humans were harmed in today’s adventure.
A black bear decided to explore Richmond today. First spotted on the Northbank Trail he later headed into town. Previous reports earlier in the week had the bear up near Pony Pasture. The picture above is from RACC Instagram which reported on the sedation and transportation of the bear.
We just received a call about a bear-and it really was a bear. Sometimes we laugh and arrive on scene with a giant Rottweiler, but nope-this was a real bear. We named him Fuzzy Wuzzy. Shout out to @richmondpolice for helping keep us safe and to @virginiawildlife for tranquilizing and relocating the bear out of the City!
Here he is in town.