Friday, June 2, 2023

Community Challenges Norfolk City Council to Become More Inclusive

On December 11, members of the LGBTQ community addressed the Norfolk City Council about the recent closure of the Hershee Bar and shifted the discussion, challenging city leaders to enact policies to make the city more inclusive.

During the Council meeting’s public comment period (starting at the 1:16 mark), Mr. Billy Tyndall spoke on behalf of Annette Stone, owner of the Hershee Bar, revealing that the city has made an offer of financial assistance to relocate the bar. 

Tyndall said, “On behalf of the Hershee Bar, Annette Stone and the community, I want to humbly thank you for your generous offer financially to help relocate the Hershee Bar.”  Details of the aforementioned offer of financial assistance to relocate the Hershee Bar have not been made public at time of press.

Following Tyndall, ODU student Kira Kindley brought up the recent discrimination lawsuit filed by a retired Norfolk firefighter, noting that this lawsuit was not unexpected.  Kindley challenged the Council to “do better” in how it engages with and treats LGBTQ members of the community and reiterated her offer to conduct a training for Council and staff.

Norfolk resident Robbin Love, member of the Hershee Bar Coalition, also helped shift the conversation to a greater discussion of LGBTQ rights after Councilwoman Angelia Graves made an eyeroll gesture directed at Love as she began to speak.  Love went on to tell the Council,

“Our endeavor to save Hershee Bar was not just about Hershee Bar.  It has always been about how Norfolk treats its LGBTQ citizens and about our efforts to save our history because no one else will do it for us.”

Love brought up Norfolk’s score of 43 (out of 100) in this year’s Human Rights Campaign’s Metropolitan Equality Index (HRC MEI) and once again encouraged the Council to create an LGBTQ advisory board to help make Norfolk a more welcoming and inclusive city.

Kathleen Casey, Associate Professor of History and Gender Studies at Virginia Wesleyan University also brought up the HRC MEI to the Council, specifically noting that Norfolk’s MEI has steadily gone down from a high of 59 in 2014 to 43 in 2018.

“We have decreased over the last four years by 16 points – steadily and consistently each year,” Casey told the Council.

Following Casey’s statement, Councilman Tommy Smigiel uncharacteristically, responded noting that he and a few other members of Council felt that the HRC MEI contained some flaws in reporting and that Norfolk’s score should be higher.  OutWire757 has reached out to Council Smigiel and asked him to elaborate on his comments about the MEI and will report on this issue separately. 

If you are interested in viewing the entire December 11 Norfolk City Council proceedings, you may do so HERE.

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