LGBTQ rights advocates looking forward to state elections

Local News

Members of the LGBTQ community say they’re still facing many struggles in southwest and central Virginia. 

Some say there’s not enough fair representation – or inclusion – on Capitol Hill or in Richmond. 

Supporters met in small groups Monday evening at the Co-Lab to discuss personal experiences with LGBTQ discrimination. 

They say unequal treatment can happen at the workplace, at school, on the street, and more.

“There is clear discrimination bias out there that we want to address, but there’s a strong, vibrant community as well,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish. His group works to make LGBTQ-friendly policy into law, with Roanoke being its latest stop in a policy town hall tour.

“This city has always been a strong community for lgbt people and their supporters,” he said.

That claim goes against the Human Rights Campaign’s inclusivity score in April that rated Roanoke just 12 out of a possible 100.

Parrish says there’s still work to do, but that some of the biggest changes can come at the state level.

“The community is excited! I mean we still live in a state where you can be fired or not hired, denied housing, or denied services at a business just because you’re gay or transgender,” he said.

Senator John Edwards agrees, pointing to the Equal Rights Amendment, which died in committee.

“This should have been passed this year. And it’s not going to pass, apparently, until the Democrats take over both the House and the Senate,” Edwards said.

Both say they’re looking forward to upcoming elections.

“All the polling we’ve done shows that the majority of Virginians – Republican, Democrat, Independent – support protecting LGBT people from discrimination. At the same time, though, they think that that is already the law,” said Parrish.

Parrish says there are things for supporters to do before the November election, like contact politicians, push for businesses to adopt non-discrimination policies, and stay up-to-date on current legislation.

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