December 19, 2019 at 7:23 pm EST | by Philip Van Slooten
James Parrish to leave Equality Virginia
Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The executive director of Equality Virginia on Wednesday announced in a statement he will step down at the end of the year to lead the Virginia Values Coalition, which is focused on passing pro-LGBTQ legislation in Virginia.

James Parrish, who 10 years ago was tasked by Equality Virginia to build support for a bill that sought to ban discrimination against LGBTQ Virginians in public employment, on Thursday told the Washington Blade he was stepping down “to focus on the one goal of passing legislation.”

“The Virginia Values Coalition was created to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation to the General Assembly,” he explained. “I am directing the efforts of all of these coalition partners to make sure we are aligning our efforts to get these bills passed.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch in their Dec. 16 article that named him a 2019 Person of the Year honoree noted pro-LGBTQ bills passed in the Virginia Senate during the previous legislative session, but failed to get a hearing in the House of Delegates despite a poll showing a majority of Republican voters supported the measures.

“It’s definitely a nonpartisan issue,” Parrish told the Times-Dispatch, with his disappointment evident. “But politicians have been slow to grasp that.”

However, with pro-LGBTQ majorities beginning a new legislative session next term, Parrish said the time to act is now and “we have an opportunity to be bolder.”

Deputy Director Vee Lamneck will move into the executive director position on Jan. 1.

Lamneck, who uses they/them pronouns, has experience in community organizing that culminated in last summer’s Transgender Information and Empowerment Summit pop-up health and information fairs which occurred across the state. Lamneck says they believe “the power of relationships is at the heart of advocacy.”

Lamneck will lead the organization through its 2020 Crowd the Capitol Lobby Days for LGBTQ Nondiscrimination and Day of Action events in January and February.

“When legislators get to meet and talk with constituents in their community, they build relationships with that legislator,” Lamneck told the Blade.

Lamneck said the most effective way for Equality Virginia to make the most of the new majorities in Virginia’s House and Senate is to “empower Virginians to be a part of this historic moment.”

Still, Lamneck was humbled by the big shoes Parrish and others left to fill.

“I have always wanted to be a part of change,” they said proudly.

Parrish said he looks forward to continuing to work with Lamneck in their new role as Equality Virginia’s executive director, and that he has “full faith and confidence in their ability to lead the organization into the future.”

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