Sometimes it’s the little things that speak volumes.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proclamation recognizing June 2015 as LGBT pride month is not a momentous court decision or a sweeping piece of legislation that will have far-reaching effects. But the governor’s hosting of an LGBT reception at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond on Tuesday evening, and his acknowledgment of Equality Virginia, the state’s top LGBT rights group, is a symbol of just how far the commonwealth has come in embracing its LGBT community.
Just two years ago, social conservatives controlled every branch of government in Richmond, with the state’s top three officeholders — former Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — all opposed to any expansion or recognition of LGBT rights. And throughout the 2013 campaign, LGBT Virginians faced the real possibility that Cuccinelli, the GOP’s gubernatorial nominee, and his running mates, Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson and State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg, Luray, Front Royal), could be elected, ushering in an even more socially conservative administration.
In contrast, McAuliffe — not to mention his fellow officeholders Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring — has been overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights. McAuliffe has been a longtime supporter of marriage equality, and issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state employees, which advocates see as setting the framework for a more expansive and permanent law prohibiting employment discrimination. McAuliffe has also spoken at a number of Equality Virginia events over the past few months. One such event was the Virginia Fairness Reception, where Equality Virginia honored Fortune 500 companies based in Richmond with pro-LGBT policies, as part of a push to encourage the state’s General Assembly to pass an employment nondiscrimination bill.
“We have a good friend in Governor McAuliffe,” James Parrish, the executive director of Equality Virginia, said in a statement. “As we focus on creating a Virginia where gay and transgender people can live, work, play an do business without the fear of facing discrimination, we are grateful to have the Governor’s participation and outspoken support.”
“Making this Commonwealth more open and welcoming to all is an essential part of my effort to build a new Virginia economy,” McAuliffe said in a prepared statement. “I am proud of the progress we have made together on ending workplace discrimination, embracing the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage and finally allowing same-sex couples to adopt. I look forward to continuing to work with my friends in the LGBT community to advocate for polices that make Virginia more open and equal to everyone.”
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