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.”
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.