More than 170 leaders of state-based LGBT rights organizations are expected to gather at the Westin Alexandria Hotel in Alexandria, Va., July 26-29 for the Equality Federation’s 20th annual Leadership Conference.
The Equality Federation serves as a national association representing LGBT advocacy groups in 42 states that have such groups, according to a statement released by Equality Federation.
Rebecca Isaacs, Equality Federation’s executive director, called this year’s conference especially important.
“As our movement resists an extraordinarily hostile administration and continued attacks on our freedoms at the state level it is crucial that we come together to strategize and reinvigorate our movement for equality,” Isaacs said.
“We’ve come so far,” she said in a statement. “A solid majority of Americans now support the fairness for LGBTQ people and our families, and the visibility of our community is unprecedented,” she said.
“Still, we have so much work ahead of us – banning conversion therapy, ending the violence and discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people, and securing nondiscrimination protections, to name a few,” she said.
Among the numerous workshop sessions and plenary presentations included in the conference schedule is a workshop called “From Plan B to Plan C: The Religious Right’s Move from RFRAS to Single-Issue Bills.”
The workshop title refers to what activists say has been a change in tactics by anti-LGBT groups since many so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills, which call for exempting individuals and businesses from complying with LGBT non-discrimination laws, have been defeated in state legislatures. Activists say anti-LGBT groups have joined state legislators in pushing for “single-issue license to discriminate bills” that would exempt individual state agencies or organizations such as child welfare agencies from complying with non-discrimination laws. Doing so could allow them to refuse to provide child adoption services to same-sex couples.
Other workshops cover such topics as fighting anti-transgender ballot measures in states; efforts to repeal laws that criminalize HIV transmission; the impact of redistricting of electoral districts on LGBT neighborhoods; how state LGBT groups can best prepare for a “rapid response” to breaking new developments; and ‘Racial Equality and the LGBTQ Movement.”
Several prominent public officials in Virginia submitted written messages published in the conference’s official program booklet welcoming the LGBT advocates to Virginia and highlighting LGBT supportive policies they have pushed for. They include Virginia Lt. Governor and gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam; Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Virginia U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; and two of three openly gay members of the Virginia Legislature, State Sen. Adam Ebbin and State House of Delegates member Mark Sickles. All of the officials are Democrats.
Mark Snyder, the Equality Federation’s communications director, said at this time there is no member organization representing D.C. among the Equality Federation’s 42 member groups.