Lobbying in Richmond for LGBT rights with Equality Virginia

The other day I got with Equality Virginia for their annual Lobby Day. Picture several hundred of us talking with Virginia state delegates and senators about the issues that matter to us. This year in the Virginia legislature, we have an extraordinary first: There is no pending legislation that EV opposes. In other words, no anti-LGBT bills. There are only LGBT-positive bills this session which Equality Virginia is supporting. What a long way we’ve come in a few short years!

I was there all day, left at 6 AM, got back at 9 PM. We Northern Virginians formed a small group going to offices of our region’s state senators and delegates to talk about the legislation we want to pass this session. Things are looking a bit brighter in Virginia. Some legislators like Senator Ken Plum and Delegate Tom Rust were so happy to see us, our lobbying was basically just a group hug. Equality Virginia is nonpartisan, and amazingly we even have a number of Republicans on our side. For example, Republican Rust has recently posted a 100% good voting record on our issues, and he has become a co-patron of HR 1493, the state employment nondiscrimination bill, which includes gender identity along with sexual orientation. Senator Cuccinelli is one Republican who is a rabid hardcore rightwing fundie, dead set against us, very insulting and bigoted. We met with not him in person but with his legislative aide, who disagreed respectfully and not confrontationally; we had a really decent, in-depth, intelligent conversation. When we walked out of there, a transsexual woman I know from Northern Virginia said it was a good thing she didn’t see Cuccinelli in person… hinting darkly…

We attended a session of the Senate and watched bills being passed. Senator McEachin spoke from the floor to call for a welcome to Equality Virginia up there in the gallery. We stood and the Senate applauded us.

On the way to our group photo on the front steps of the Capitol that Thomas Jefferson built, we passed an equestrian statue of George Washington with flowers planted around it. Brilliant purple and blue flowers thriving in the middle of winter though the wind was bitterly cold and below freezing. The flowers were pansies. One of our lesbian members remarked: “Notice the only ones who are TOUGH enough to take it are the PANSIES!” We all laughed and I told her that witticism was going in my blog, it was too good not to pass along. She was so happy I told her that.I told other women how I’m a fan of Pam’s House Blend, and the younger ones agreed, saying how much they love and admire Pam, while some older ones were like “What is a… blog?”

We were based in the Library of Virginia which has this enormous lobby. In the evening all the delegates and senators who came to the reception to support us, several dozen of them, were gathered on the steps to be thanked by Dyana Mason, the head of EV. And this one woman who lobbied with us, a straight ally, broke down and cried with tears of joy to see this happening. To think that only a few years ago politicians would not have given us the time of day–but here they were en masse standing up and being counted for us. Demonstrating real political courage! And at that point Governor Kaine walked in and everyone cheered. At the reception they served a ton of pesto, which was a great delight for me, I esteem pesto as much as gourmets do caviar.

On the whole, things are looking really positive for EV. We had a good year in 2007 and may be looking at another good year. I think our excellent recent advances are entirely the result of good planning and organizing by the leaders of EV, kudos to them.

You wouldn’t believe how many compliments I got on my new purple outfit! Women telling me they should take style lessons from me. A remarkable number of EV women were wearing purple that day.

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