Making Roanoke more inclusive one step at a time

Local News

ROANOKE, Va (WFXR) – The city of Roanoke has continued to make strides towards inclusion, especially among the LBGTQ community.

“I’d seen Roanoke to be a welcoming place for people that are LGBT. But our policies don’t reflect that raising our score. Right now we’re the lowest municipality in the commonwealth. It’s very important to send a message to the rest of Virginia,” says Senator John Edwards Chief of Staff Luke Priddy.

Priddy is disappointed in Roanoke’s Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index Score. The score is essentially a measure of how inclusive a place is for LGBTQ people who live, and work in the area. Roanoke score just 10 points out of a possible 100 last year. The city has now more than doubled that to 22 points this year. Which, is something Priddy says is still a work in progress.

Oliver McKeon of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ History Project says there’s still more work to be done in the city of Roanoke.

“Moments where people can be comfortably visible in their city are how we take those very first steps towards cities that are comfortable to live in and to love in.”

While leading a tour group in the Old Southwest Neighborhood today in Roanoke. McKeon says, neighborhoods like Old Southwest, have paved the way for policies that have helped people in the LGBTQ community.

“As a very out transgender person, specifically it’s huge. As an LGBT person it’s huge because progress like this results in things like a trans person or an LGBT person having a doctor that they can go to. Or having a community center that can point them in the direction of anyone at all that might be able to relate to their lived experience,” says McKeon.

For McKeon, the index measurement isn’t just a number. It’s about making history.

“We get to do things like that because of movements and neighborhoods that start out in places just like this one,” states McKeon.

According to Priddy, the score is all about bringing a positive change to city of Roanoke.

“Decades from now I know people will be looking at today, and what we’ve been able to accomplish. Then we’ll be onto another goal,” explains Priddy.

This comes just days after both the State House and Senate passed their own versions of the Virginia Values Act. The act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the commonwealth’s anti-discrimination law.

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