Saturday, June 10, 2023

Southside Citizens Meet to Advocate for Equality and Better Community Relations

Last week, two groups of interested LGBTQ residents and allies on the Southside met separately to discuss how to positively affect change statewide and improve community relations.

Virginia Beach for Fairness

In Virginia Beach, the newly founded group Virginia Beach for Fairness, co-hosted a community information and brainstorming session with residents about the information and strategic grassroots lobbying campaign targeting members of the House of Delegates representing Virginia Beach to update existing laws in the Commonwealth that would protect LGBTQ persons from public housing and public employment discrimination.  These proposed changes would not apply to private employers or public accommodation. 

Through a mix of constituent communication, in-person lobbying and by raising awareness, Virginia Beach for Fairness and Equality Virginia hope to sway public opinion and switch Delegate votes during the next legislative session in Richmond.  The aforementioned updates to the current laws were closely defeated during the last legislative session and Virginia Beach for Fairness and Equality Virginia feel the timing is right to affect change at the statewide level.  Their research has shown that committed voters – voters that vote in every election, support non-discrimination legislation.

Over the next few months, Virginia Beach for Fairness and Equality Virginia will be sharing stories with the media from four population segments that have been adversely affected by Virginia’s dated statutes.  These groups include – Military, Faith Community, Families and Businesspersons. 

In addition, staff from Equality Virginia asked attendees (and ten of their friends) to fill out postcards advocating change that will be sent to House Speaker Kirk Cox. 

Virginia Beach for Fairness and Equality Virginia will hold its next event on August 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Virginia Beach’s Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library called “LGBTQ + You Info and Adovacy Session.”  The event is free, and open to anyone interested in supporting LGBTQ persons.  For more information, visit the event page HERE.

How to Make Norfolk More LGBTQ-Friendly

The pending closure of Norfolk’s Hershee Bar has spurred a grassroots movement that is both challenging and trying to educate the Norfolk City Council about how important gathering places such as the Hershee Bar are for the LGBTQ community. 

Out of this controversy, many members of the community recognized a need for Norfolk to be more LGBTQ friendly. To that end, an informal town hall and panel discussion was convened by former Norfolk City Councilwoman Nicole Carry at the Hershee Bar last week for a frank, open discussion about how the City of Norfolk can better engage with the LGBTQ community and brainstorm ideas to move the community forward. 

Dr. Cathleen Rhodes of ODU and Barb James were panelists and helped lead a discussion among the diverse group of LGBTQ persons and their allies, several of which had never visited the Hershee Bar.  Attendees were given the opportunity to vent about community apathy, challenge community leaders and offer ideas about how to move forward positively. 

The lively and passionate discussion led to a number of ideas the group will pursue going forward.  Among the ideas put forth were:

  • Formally adopt a Human Rights Commission for the City of Norfolk.
  • Advocating more direct engagement with the City Council and other leaders.
  • Ask leadership from Hampton Roads Pride, LGBT Life Center, HRBOR to come together and find more ways to cooperate.
  • Educate leaders that to be supportive of the LGBTQ community is not a one-day commitment (referring to their support of Hampton Roads Pride), but a continuous effort.
  • Creation of an independent LGBTQ Advisory Board to educate local leaders about policy and issues facing the community.
  • Encourage dedicated and qualified members of the LGBTQ community to apply for openings on city boards, commissions and authorities.
  • Ask straight allies to be more visible.
  • Address racism, sexism and misogyny in the community.
  • Make sure LGBTQ youth have a voice.
  • Include QPOC (queer persons of color).
  • Offer training and capacity building for city officials and staff.

Attendees were asked to attend the next Norfolk City Council meeting on August 28 and bring at least five friends.  The group plans on meeting again prior to the August 28 meeting. 

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