Lobby Day roundup

First of all, you must read this editorial by Leonard Pitts, Jr.: Why defense of gays matters. On the off chance that we have readers who don’t yet understand that the grassroots movement for equality is not driven just by GLBT people, but also by our straight loved ones – and complete strangers who have an understanding of moral coherence – this explains it.

Also: EL friend and former Loudoun resident Eileen Levandoski has a great podcast from the Legislative Reception. It includes interviews with Equality Virginia’s Dyana Mason, Commonweath Coalition campaign manager Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Virginia Partisans president Charley Conrad, Log Cabin Republicans state director David Lampo, Bruce Roemmelt (Delegate Bob Marshall’s opponent), and Delegate David Englin.

Thank you to our wonderful citizen lobbyists from Loudoun! You helped make this a great day, along with the rest of the 200 or so volunteers from around the state, and everyone who continues to contact legislators via phone and email.

Equality Virginia Lobby Day 2007 was very encouraging in a number of ways. In contrast to previous years, most of the bills of interest to our community are proactive ones that we support, rather than attacks on our families that need to be stopped. The exceptions to this are the two anti-GSA bills patroned by Delegate Matt Lohr (R-Harrisonburg) and Delegate Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg).

Another different and encouraging experience: Lohr’s bill was killed in committee the morning of Lobby Day. According to reports from the committee meeting, there was a distinct lack of comfort with the usual fearmongering blather about the “homosexual agenda.” This bill would have easily sailed through the House in previous years. Its defeat in committee this year is an extremely significant milestone.

Disappointingly, Delegate Adam Ebbin’s attempt to amend the language of the Marshall/Newman so-called “marriage amendment” was also defeated in committee.

That resolution would have begun the process of reestablishing the “savings clause,” language originally included in the amendment that clarified the protection of private contractual rights. Since even the most ardent advocates of the amendment insisted during the campaign that it was not their intent to subject these rights to legal challenge, their refusal to make this intent clear is highly suspect. We can think of no reason, after all the talk of “letting the people decide,” for denying the voters this chance to make sure that the amendment is interpreted correctly by the courts.

Having declined the opportunity to take this reasonable step, we can only assume that the Delegates in question were less than truthful about their intentions. (And that’s why Equality Virginia has Amendment Watch.) The more time that goes by, the more that Delegate David Englin’s resolution to begin the process of outright repeal of the amendment will look like the better option. That is inevitably the outcome, the only question being how long it will take.

In the meantime, legislators who previously might have treated our community as expendable are seeing the writing on the wall with regard to common sense issues such as hospital visitation and employment non-discrimination. Stay tuned.

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