Connect with us

Local

Va. lawmakers introduce anti-bullying bills

Ebbin, Englin plan legislation to toughen state’s existing laws

Published

on

Two members of the Virginia House of Delegates — one gay, one a straight ally — have introduced two anti-bullying bills that, if successful, will be major accomplishments in the coming legislative session considering how difficult activists and elected officials there have found getting pro-LGBT legislation passed.

Del. Adam Ebbin, who represents Virginia’s 49th House District, which includes parts of Arlington County, Alexandria and Fairfax County, has introduced legislation that would make bullying a class one misdemeanor, give victims the right to sue bullies who are sanctioned or found guilty, provide for expulsions for bullies and require that any bullying that causes injury be reported to the state’s attorney. Ebbin is the only openly gay member of the House of Delegates.

Del. David Englin, who represents the state’s 45th House District which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and Alexandria, has introduced the “Anti-Bullying Responsibility Act,” which would add specificity to the codes of student conduct already required of state school districts, require schools to have procedures in place to separate victims from bullies, make bullying intervention a requirement for teachers, require incidents to be reported to superintendents and hold administrators responsible for their local policies.

“No child should be afraid to go to school and every child has a right to a safe learning environment,” Ebbin said. “We need to make sure that school is a safe environment for all our children.”

Forty-seven states have anti-bullying laws in place and 35 states have taken action against cyber bullying, including Virginia. Ebbin said these new laws, if passed, would “add teeth” to existing laws.

Englin’s bill, for instance, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the definition of bullying even though some districts, such as his, already have that specified. He said having those areas identified is important because in some parts of the state, educators don’t take anti-gay bullying seriously.

“Even some teachers have been known to use anti-gay epithets in class,” Englin said. “This law would make it so that even in areas where there isn’t a strong policy that makes it clear that’s not OK, this would.”

Ebbin said he was inspired to introduce the legislation in part because of the late Christian Taylor, a 16-year-old freshman at Grafton High School in Yorktown, Va., who committed suicide last May after enduring months of bullying. He hung himself in his bedroom. His mother told reporters they had reported the bullying to school administrators and police but nothing was done. Police said they looked into the situation but turned it over to the school when they determined no crime had been committed.

Ebbin said one bully told Taylor, “you need to just go commit suicide and get it over with.”

Englin admitted, considering Virginia’s poor track record of passing LGBT-friendly laws, the sexual orientation and gender identity provisions in his bill could hinder it but he said it’s still important to try to get it passed that way.

Equality Virginia, of course, supports the legislation but said its staff and lobbyists have yet to finalize their legislative priorities for the year. The board of its lobbying arm is meeting this weekend to decide its members’ goals.

“We haven’t finalized anything but obviously a law protecting LGBT employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been on the top of our wish list for about three years,” said James Parrish, the organization’s deputy director.

Parrish also said provisions for partners of gay state employees and having sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the state’s human rights act will likely top the organization’s “wish list.”

And if Del. Bob Marshall introduces a bill — which he said he’s drafting — to ban gays from serving in the Virginia National Guard, Parrish said defeating it would be among his group’s top goals.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

District of Columbia

Rooftop Pool Party postponed

Capital Pride Alliance moves official event to June 22

Published

on

A scene from last year's Capital Pride Rooftop Pool Party. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Rooftop Pool Party, originally scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. tonight, has been postponed until Thursday, June 22, according to a statement released by the Capital Pride Alliance on Instagram. This action comes amid an international climate event created by the Canadian wildfire that has resulted locally in poor air quality and a haze around the region.

The Capital Pride Alliance Instagram account posted, “As with all concerns regarding health and safety issues, the Capital Pride Alliance will closely monitor the air quality situation resulting from Canadian wildfire smoke and take necessary precautions in consultation with our partners in the DC government.”

“What does this mean for the pool party?” a question one private Instagram account user posed in the comment section.

“Important Update:” A representative of the Capital Pride Alliance responded through the group’s official Instagram account. “Tonight’s Capital Pride RoofTop Pool Party at VIDA The Yards is being postponed until Thursday, June 22 at 8:00 pm, due to the current air-quality situation resulting from the Canadian wildfires smoke. Please note that this postponement only applies to today’s event.”

The Capital Pride Alliance has yet to cancel or postpone any further events.

The White House earlier today rescheduled a large outdoor Pride reception planned for this evening to Saturday.

Continue Reading

District of Columbia

White House postpones Pride event due to wildfire smoke

Thousands expected for celebration bumped to Saturday

Published

on

The White House on June 8, 2023. A White House Pride reception was postponed due to the Canadian wildfire smoke. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The White House announced Thursday that a Pride event scheduled for this evening has been postponed to Saturday due to the lingering Canadian wildfire smoke.

The smoke has enveloped D.C. in a dangerous haze that triggered a “purple alert” on Thursday, considered worse than a “red alert.”

The event, expected to draw thousands of invited LGBTQ advocates and supporters to D.C., has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday on the South Lawn of the White House, the same day as D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade, which kicks off at 3 p.m., and Pride on the Pier celebration, which starts at 2 p.m.

Continue Reading

Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth election canceled after just 3 candidates file for 3 races

Mayor Stan Mills unopposed in bid for second term

Published

on

Rehoboth Beach Mayor Stan Mills gets a second term after no one filed to run against him. (Photo courtesy of Mills)

Rehoboth Beach voters won’t be heading to the polls this August because municipal elections were canceled after just three candidates filed to run for three open seats.

Stan Mills will be Rehoboth’s mayor for a second term, while Patrick Gossett, who’s gay, will remain on the Board of Commissioners and Donald Preston will join the board, replacing Jay Lagree.

Lagree filed to run in the Aug. 12 election but withdrew from the running shortly thereafter. He did not respond to a voicemail asking why he withdrew, but released a statement citing his age and hearing loss as reasons for bowing out of the race.

“After much consideration, I am withdrawing my candidacy for city commission,” he said in a statement released on June 6. “I have been honored to serve on the commission and to serve the citizens of Rehoboth Beach, and I had intended to continue my service. However, I am getting older every day. My hearing has become a problem; although, with correction, I can do pretty well most of the time.”

Mills was the target of criticism when he ran for mayor three years ago, unseating incumbent Paul Kuhns. Critics were concerned about his stance on development, which surfaced when Mills voted against Clear Space Theatre’s plans to build a new complex on Rehoboth Avenue, killing the already approved deal that was widely supported by the local business community.

More than a decade ago, as city commissioner, Mills used an ordinance to target bars hosting late-night eating and drinking on outside patios. Six of the eight bars targeted were owned and operated by gay businesspeople, former Aqua Grill owner Bill Shields told the Delaware State Public Integrity Commission. Police arrested and fingerprinted Shields before releasing him later as it became clear that Aqua Grill was grandfathered in and did not have to follow the ordinance. In a sharply worded decision, Delaware’s Public Integrity Commission said Mills used his public office for personal gain when targeting the bars, since he owned a bed and breakfast next door, and should have recused himself from the decision.

Asked about it in 2020, Mills told the Blade that it was “old news.”

“I’m sorry that happened, I’m sorry the way that was perceived,” he said. “It’s lessons learned and not forgotten, but we have to move on.”

On Monday, Mills raised the Pride flag outside of city hall and presented CAMP Rehoboth, the local LGBTQ community center, with a proclamation honoring LGBTQ+ Pride month along with two commissioners.

CAMP Rehoboth declined to comment on the election, citing its 501(c)(3) status, which does not allow it to endorse candidates.

When Mills ran for election in 2020, real estate agent Joe Maggio called attention to the issue, writing in an editorial for the Blade that Mills “uses his official role to enhance his personal interests and impose his personal prejudices.”

Mills did not respond to an email and voicemail seeking comment.

Gossett, who did not immediately respond to a voicemail, has served on the Board of Commissioners for 10 years. He was one of four commissioners that voted to overturn Clear Space Theatre Company’s approval to build two buildings in downtown Rehoboth in 2021. Clear Space appealed to Delaware’s Superior Court but later dropped the lawsuit, citing the cost of litigation and other factors. It has since abandoned plans to build the expansion in downtown Rehoboth, but executive director Wesley Paulson told the Delaware Business Times they will look for a new location “outside of the city.”

Preston is a political newcomer but comes endorsed by Lagree.

“He’s young, smart, has the same goals and objectives for Rehoboth Beach as I have,” he told WGMD.

Preston did immediately respond to a voicemail. The three politicians will be certified on June 16.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular