Being Gay in Virginia

Burke Connection
March 23, 2006
By Kelly Schlageter, Vienna

As another Virginia General Assembly comes to a close, I ask myself again why I choose to live in Virginia. The attacks on me and my community came from all angles, attempting to prevent me from adopting, having my own children, and marrying the person I have chosen to share my life with, just to name a few.

And yet I choose to stay. In fact, my partner and I are adding on to our home in Fairfax County so that it will grow with our family and be a comfortable place for us to live for a long time to come.

It is sometimes hard to reconcile the difference between the experiences I have on a daily basis and the hateful bantering that ensues on the floor of the General Assembly about my life.

But the truth is, the discriminatory spirit of many legislators doesn’t match the spirit of my interactions. I work for a large Fortune 500 company headquartered in Fairfax County. My colleagues know that I am a lesbian and frequently offer their support, and their incredulity at the antics being played out in our houses of law. I sit on the Fairfax County Commission on Organ and Tissue Donation, and my colleagues there treat me with respect and understanding. My neighbors are glad to have us close by and invite us to summer picnics, help us chop up wood and we mutually borrow the random cup of sugar. My book club often spends the first hour of our monthly meetings discussing the anti-gay legislation being debated by our lawmakers. They offer their support and their condolences.

But lawmakers have chosen to listen, not to my colleagues, neighbors, friends and family, but to the far right extremes who have managed to convince some that my relationship is a threat to marriage; that making sure I am unable to protect my family – for perpetuity – is more important than transportation, education, taxes, or any of the other pressing issues of our time.

And yet, we will stay here and fight this amendment, because I believe that fair-minded people in Fairfax County will see that this attempt by lawmakers to distract us from real issues only serves to destroy the real moral fabric of our society. I believe the amendment prohibiting any and all legal recognition of my family that will be on the ballot in November will fail once Virginians see that I am not a threat. Rather, my relationship adds to the fabric of my society, and my county. I believe that good, solid, happy relationships make our society stronger, and I believe that the people of Fairfax County will agree.

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