Metro Weekly

Equality Virginia Names OUTstanding Virginians

Awardees will be honored for representing Virginia's LGBT community with distinction in their respective fields

Equality Virginia, the commonwealth’s major LGBT organization, on Monday announced the winners of its OUTstanding Virginians awards, which are given annually to LGBT Virginians who have made an impact on behalf of the LGBT community and represent the community with distinction.

The awards, which are given out at Equality Virginia’s annual Commonwealth Dinner, the organization’s biggest fundraiser, now in its 11th year, will be presented to the recipients at the Richmond Convention Center on April 5. This year’s dinner will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of Equality Virginia’s founding, and will feature special guests Laverne Cox, of Orange Is the New Black, and Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post.

This year’s recipients of the OUTstanding Virginian awards include Eboné Bell, a local organizer and promoter LGBT events such as Capital Queer Prom and Capital Pride, and managing editor of Tagg magazine; Donnie Connor, a psychotherapist and co-founder of a gay practice, where he works with LGBT and HIV-positive clients, and has helped counsel LGBT youth who are coming out; Allen Groves, the associate vice president and dean of students at the University of Virginia; and Greta Harris, a social justice activist who serves as president and CEO of the Richmond-based Better Housing Coalition.

Others being honored are: Robert Roman, the co-owner of Norfolk- and Virginia Beach-based furniture store Decorum, a member of the Ghent Business Association, and a former member of Equality Virginia’s board who has demonstrated at various rallies in favor of marriage equality; Jean Segner, a political fundraiser for LGBT-friendly candidates and who has held various leadership responsibilities at Equality Virginia; Dr. Walter Sheppe, a longtime gay activist who has worked to protect the rights of sexual minorities at colleges and universities; and Jeff Trammell, the first out chair of a major U.S. university, the first out member of William and Mary’s board of visitors, and the fist out member of the board of trustees of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and who was involved in LGBT outreach for the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry.

Equality Virginia will also honor Virginia Organizing, a grassroots organization dedicated to empowering local communities to tackle issues affecting LGBT people. Virginia Organizing has been a force in statewide campaigns, has lobbied Virginia lawmakers on the importance of pro-LGBT legislation, and is credited with strengthening anti-bullying policies in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and with improving LGBT people’s access to loans from the Virginia Housing Development Authority.

Equality Virginia’s 11th annual Commonwealth Dinner will be held at the Richmond Convention Center, 403 3rd St., Richmond, Saturday, April 5. Tickets are $145 for general admission, or $275 with VIP reception. Tickets are available online.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at