January 19, 2016 at 8:57 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Activists gather at Virginia Capitol to criticize anti-LGBT bills

Virginia, Robert Rigby, gay news, Washington Blade

Robert Rigby, Jr, of FCPS Pride speaks at a press conference at the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 19, 2016, where he and other advocates criticized a series of anti-LGBT bills that are before Virginia lawmakers. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Day/Equality Virginia)

Advocates on Tuesday held a press conference at the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond to criticize a series of anti-LGBT bills that members of the General Assembly have introduced.

Robert Rigby, Jr., a spokesperson for FCPS Pride, a group that represents LGBT employees of the Fairfax County School District, is among those who spoke at a press conference that Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia organized.

Rigby, who is a teacher at West Potomac High School in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, specifically criticized state Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William County)’s House Bill 385 that would prevent school boards and other municipal entities from enacting anti-LGBT discrimination measures.

Members of the Fairfax County School Board over the last two years have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the district’s anti-discrimination policy.

Rigby said HB 385 would “dial this all back.”

“It would take away our sense of security and inclusion,” he said.

Rigby also criticized House Bill 663, a measure introduced by state Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg) that would require people to use restrooms inside public buildings and schools corresponding with their “anatomical sex.”

Amy, who is the mother of a transgender child, said during the press conference that her daughter must use a separate restroom at her school. Brian Rawcliffe, a trans man who recently graduated from a public school in Stafford County also criticized HB 663 and a nearly identical measure that Cole introduced earlier this month.

“We don’t want to infringe on anyone’s privacy,” said Rawcliffe. “We just want our own to be respected. It’s a bathroom, not a sex shop.”

Amy, transgender, Richmond, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Amy, the mother of a transgender girl, speaks at a press conference at the Virginia state Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 19, 2016, where she and other advocates criticized a series of anti-LGBT bills that are before Virginia lawmakers. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Day/Equality Virginia)

Phil Crosby, who is a member of the Governor’s LGBT Tourism Task Force, spoke against state Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah County)’s House Bill 773 that would prohibit the state from punishing officials who refuse to perform a same-sex marriage because of their religious beliefs.

Crosby during the press conference said HB 773 would adversely impact Virginia’s economy. He noted that Indianapolis “had a major public relations debacle on its hands” last year after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed his state’s controversial religious freedom law.

“No one would want to see that happening in Roanoke, in Norfolk or in Richmond,” said Crosby.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) made a similar point.

The gay Alexandria Democrat during the press conference noted tourism generates $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue each year. Ebbin also pointed out that Old Town Alexandria, Mount Vernon, Reagan National Airport and thousands of hotel rooms are located in his district.

“The legislation we’re discussing is a direct affront to our welcoming climate, both for businesses and tourists,” he said.

State Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County) earlier this month introduced House Bill 431, which critics contend would make it nearly impossible for trans people to change the gender on their birth certificates in the commonwealth. State Sen. Charles Carrico (R-Galax) in December proposed two measures that would allow officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of their religious beliefs.

“ACLU didn’t fight for marriage equality to allow Virginia to take steps backwards in terms of protections for LGBT Virginians,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga during the press conference.

Anti-LGBT bills highlight ‘darkness that grips some Virginians’

Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish noted there are several pro-LGBT measures that have been introduced in the 2016 General Assembly.

Newly elected gay state Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) has introduced a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Ebbin and state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County) and state Del. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) have introduced resolutions that seek to repeal Virginia’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Ebbin and McEachin have also proposed a bill that would codify into law Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 2014 executive order banning discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. State Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) has introduced a measure that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in housing.

State Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington County) earlier this month introduced House Bill 427, which would ban so-called conversion therapy to minors in Virginia.

Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb in a statement she released on Monday criticized legislation “prohibiting gender confusion therapy.”

Michael Thorne-Begland, vice president of ROSMY, a Richmond-based group that provides support to LGBT youth, on Tuesday sharply criticized Cobb.

“The onslaught of proposals to enshrine antiquated bias in our laws is a reaction to that simple truth and it highlights the darkness that grips some Virginians,” said Thorne-Begland.

Brad Kutner of GayRVA contributed to this report.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • When right-wingers think about gay people, all they can think about is the mechanics of sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex. Someone ought to bring that to the light. They are obsessing about sex, we just want fair treatment.

    • Well, of course they obsess over the mechanics of sex, being that those people are religi-nuts who have all sorts of pent up sexual problems–and since THEY obsess over sex all the time (either thinking that it is a sin, or that they have their own perversions on mind), they think of the rest of the world the same way.

      Religion and sex is a funny thing… The Mormons figured out that by banning self-gratification and endorsing polygamy, they could grow their religion MUCH faster through increased reproduction.

      While Mormons are the extreme in this regard, even the Catholic ban on contraception has the effect of increasing their numbers through reproduction.

      This is why religi-nuts are so anti-gay…. we don’t reproduce and they fail to see the value brought by we who are far more creative than they.

  • The GOP South is anti anyone who does not fit into their narrow view. If you are outside that box you will be discriminated against.

    • I don’t agree. When my husband and I got married in in Provincetown in 2009 and came home to Virginia, there was not a single company that denied our marriage. Every single one simply recognized our marriage as normal and acted accordingly.

      Kindly remember that “every” old Southern family has its “funny” members– not that I like to be thought of as “funny”, but family and blood trumps bigotry in the South. On the other hand, I agree that the religi-nut wing of the GOP (in the South, the North and everywhere else) has a narrow view of their world–but even they are entitled to their opinion–however intellectually stunted they may be. But, it is interesting to see various parts of the GOP ostracizing the intolerant members of the GOP in growing numbers.

      But, let’s all remember that once upon a time, it was the GOP who opposed slavery–and the Democrats who fought tooth and nail to keep slavery in place. Then, the Democrats created a new version of slavery: the welfare state.

      • You can’t get much older South than my family. I am descended from signers, Constitution and Secession, a President of the First Continental Congress, etc, etc, etc. My home recently saw a mass killing in the name of white supremacy, we finally took Virginas, not SC’s, flag down. But we have given this nation Trey Gowdy, Mark Sandford, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. For that I apologize.

        In my mind corporate welfare is much worse than SNAP and other social welfare. In the words of a great man whose teachings are largely ignore these days, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ But we now worship money and the accumulation of it’s trappings that show just how successful we are. The abundant life gospel has replaced humility and the whole eye of a needle thing has been largely forgotten. It has become a religion of I’ve got mine and consider yourself lucky to eat the scraps I toss you. In that it dovetails nicely with what the GOP has devolved into. Trump, Cruz, Rubio….I mean really!

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