To the Editor:
On behalf of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, I commend the House of Delegates for passing House Resolution 75 commemorating Virginia’s stand for religious liberty and freedom from political persecution on the 230th anniversary of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The original statute passed when Virginia law excluded Roman Catholics, many Protestant sects, and Muslims from much of public life. On this anniversary delegates have acknowledged the remaining threads of this intolerance and stated unequivocally “neither the Islamic faith nor the billion Muslims around the world who wish to simply live and practice their religion in peace” should be subjected to derision or discrimination.
However, we are concerned the General Assembly’s welcome has stopped here. This same General Assembly is poised to enact legislation to exclude and discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians. Under the Virginia imagined by these pending bills, clerks of court could refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Government employees and contractors could deny services and jobs to persons whose experience of their own gender is not captured by the sex assigned them in their first moments after birth. Students and members of the public would be forced to use bathrooms designated for a gender they do not identify as their own. Gay couples would be denied public accommodations. Cities and counties could not prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons. Conversion therapy could continue damaging young people in futile attempts to change their sexual orientation.
As people of faith, we acknowledge the complicity of our many faith traditions in nurturing attitudes that have led to discriminatory legislation. Driven by fear of the unfamiliar and unknown, we have allowed our traditions to be co-opted to justify unjustifiable social norms. We instead should be fearlessly following the commands of our faiths to condemn injustice and welcome the diversity of God’s creation. We oppose continued use of faith to justify oppression. We call on faith leaders, senators and delegates to do the same and reject legislation that stigmatizes and discriminates against the LGBT community or any other community in our great Commonwealth.
President, People of Faith for Equality in Virginia
This letter was published in slightly modified form in the Richmond Times Dispatch on February 5, 2016 at http://ow.ly/Y0KZJ.
Clergy--from many faiths and traditions, and from all parts of Virginia--are ready to marry gay and lesbian couples.
Many have been doing so for a long time within their own traditions, and look forward to the day when they will be allowed to sign certificates of legal marriage.
Until that day arrives, many will continue to perform religious marriage ceremonies and will prepare for that very first day when civil marriage ceremonies become legal for all in Virginia. If you desire to be ready when that day arrives, consider reaching out in advance to talk with someone whom you would like to perform your wedding service.
On Saturday, February 6, Hope United Church of Christ, POFEV and Washington Gay Men's Chorus are again sponsoring their annual Love Wins Concert on February 6 to celebrate progress on marriage equality and gay rights. Join in for an evening of food, song, and fun! This event is one of our favorite events of the year!
The artistry and power of the Washington Gay Men's Chorus is unsurpassed in the DC area, and this year's concert again features both the chorus's Rock Creek Singers and Potomac Fever ensembles. POFEV is grateful to the chorus and to the amazing hospitality of Hope UCC. Please come join us in a wonderful venue and an extraordinary fun evening!
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online from the Hope UCC website store. Proceeds from the event go to support Hope UCC's building fund to support its ongoing ministry as a diverse, open and affirming congregation welcoming all people.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Concert Begins - 7:30 p.m.
Hope United Church of Christ
6130 Old Telegraph Road
Alexandria, VA 22310
www.hopeucc.org / 703-960-8772
Equality Virginia has named POFEV Board Member Paula Prettyman and her wife Kelly Schlageter and named longtime POFEV ally and supporter Claire Guthrie Gustañaga Outstanding Virginians for 2015. The two are being honored at Equality Virginia's 2015 Commonwealth Dinner on April 18 in Richmond.
Paula Prettyman and Kelly Schlageter founded Equality Fairfax in 2001, which became a leading agent for change in Fairfax County through their advocacy work the Fairfax County police department and Board of Supervisors. Equality Fairfax then became a core member of the efforts in 2005 and 2006 to defeat the constitutional amendments barring Virginia from legally recognizing marriages of same-sex couples and led the largest rallies in the state protesting the amendments and related statutes.
In 2013, Paula joined the POFEV Board, where she has been a key leader of POFEV’s grassroots efforts first to achieve legal marriage recognition and now to ensure that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons also experience full equality in their daily lives within their congregations and their communities. Kelly has advised POFEV on media strategies and helped to organize POFEV Witness for Love and other events.
Kelly has noted the two have been successful as advocates, organizers, and now parents for one chief reason: “We enjoy working together and balance each other well. Our combined skills make a complete package.”
Congratulations, Paula and Kelly! And thank you for all that you have done for Virginia!
Claire Guthrie Gustañaga led Equality Virginia's legislative strategy and advocacy efforts for many years before taking her current position as the executive director of the Virginia ACLU. A former Deputy Chief Attorney General of Virginia, Claire has been at the forefront of advocating for equality for LGBT Virginians for decades.
Claire also has been a strong supporter of POFEV since its founding. POFEV worked closely with Claire in her advocacy work with Equality Virginia and during her leadership of the Commonwealth Coalition that led the fight against the amendments to Virginia's constitution barring recognition of marriages. POFEV often appearing at hearings that Claire organized to testify on equality issues and worked with Claire and the Commonwealth Coalition to organize a petition signed by 300 clergy opposing adoption of the marriage discrimination amendments.
Since moving to lead the Virginia ACLU, Claire has continued to be a strong ally of POFEV by supporting POFEV in organizing Witnesses for LOVE! in 2014 at local and federal courthouses across Virginia and providing much needed strategic advice at critical junctures in the movement. Claire also was one of the lead attorneys on the federal court cases striking down Virginia's marriage discrimination laws.
POFEV could not be more more appreciative of all that Claire has done to achieve equality for LGBT and all Virginians, and we are thrilled to see her long and untiring service recognized. Congratulations, Claire!
POFEV's campaign for equality for LGBT Virginians is anchored in a broader and deeper mission to create a wider movement for a new Virginia. In our New Virginia Blog we want to share what we experience on that journey and what we see as Virginia moves forward toward becoming a more inclusive and welcoming community.
We also are eager to share with you the wisdom, thoughts, and perspectives of the many different individuals who make up this movement as well. That's why we created a second blog called Voices from New Virginia where we can share with you the vision of others from where they view this work.
POFEV organized 15 Virginia congregations and 46 clergy to join POFEV in an amicus brief to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014 opposing Virginia's marriage discrimination laws. Arguments in the case were held on May 13, on the powerful ruling by Federal District Judge Arenda Wright Allen, and ultimately the Court of Appeals upheld Judge Wright Allen's decision to strike down these laws. The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case left the Fourth Circuit's decision standing, paving the way for all marriages to be recognized in Virginia beginning in October 2014.
POFEV was thrilled that the Supreme Court's consideration of a similar case from the Sixth Circuit in 2015 declared that all persons have a right to marry. POFEV sponsoring an interfaith prayer service in anticipation of the oral arguments and participated in the march at the U.S. Supreme Court.
POFEV's brief recounted the history of Virginia's use of marriage laws to discriminate against LGBT Virginians and many groups before them. "This is a big step for POFEV, and one we are proud to take," said POFEV President Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline. "The history of marriage in Virginia convinced us that the Court needs to know the truth about 'traditional marriage' in Virginia--the history of how the powerful have used marriage as a tool of social control to deny the dignity of disfavored groups.
Read more, including the brief itself, here.
At Charlottesville Pride on September 14, Robin Gorsline with Virginia marriage equality plaintiffs Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff and with Mary Ann Archer.
POFEV is organizing and traveling across Virginia to Pride celebrations, congregations, interfaith services, and clergy lunches, with new events scheduled weekly. To learn more about what POFEV is doing each week and when we might be in your community, please check out our Events page. Our Events page also has links to stories about past events of note like Pride Festivals and Interfaith Services.
If you like for POFEV to speak or be a part of an event in your community or congregation, contact POFEV through our Contact Us link. Until then, please join us at one of the events we'll have near you!
We love to help publicize events taking place in or being sponsored by faith communities and faith-based organizations across Virginia that help promote equality and understanding. You can read more about such events your and other communities have held here. If you have events that you would like us to help publicize, please let us know by sending us a message from our contact form here.
POFEV thanks Laughing Gull Foundation for their second year of grant funding as part of $30,000 in funding being provided over three years!
POFEV is using this funding to support its congregational and community-level outreach campaign to encourage congregations to become more open in their welcome and inclusion and to inspire and lead their communities to do the same. Thank you, Laughing Gull, for your support!
In May and December 2015, Razoo hosted special online campaigns to make it easier for you to support groups like POFEV do our work. With your support through Razoo, we raised more than $2,500 to launch our campaign to support our Grassroots Equality Project to help all corners of Virginia become welcoming of all people regardless of whom they love!
Thank you to Razoo for your support and thank you to all who donated! If you want to help us strengthen our presence in communities and congregations across the Commonwealth, please support us financially by clicking here or on the Grassroots Equality Project logo above!
POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 • 804-519-3196 • www.facebook.com/pofev