New Virginia Blog

Our New Virginia Blogs

POFEV_logo_for_web.jpgPOFEV'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. 

Please enjoy both of these blogs, and let us know what you think of them here.

Building Change: Inside and Out

by Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, POFEV President & CEO

January 6, 2014

Virginia_State_Capitol.jpgThe General Assembly of Virginia begins its 60-day session this week on January 8. A few days later, on January 11, the new Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General will take office.

It is an exciting time to be in Richmond--and an important time. POFEV will be there (and we hope you will be there, too).

AND, and this is a big AND, we will be all over Virginia organizing for Witness for LOVE on February 14. More about that below.

EVThumbnailLarge.jpegFirst, please know we are supporting the hard work of our close friends at Equality Virginia (EV)—and Senators Donald McEachin (left)  Donald_McEachin.jpgand Adam Ebbin (right)—to pass a bill banning discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation and Adam_Ebbin.jpggender identity and expression (and most likely a bill allowing second-parent adoption).

We also are supporting the hard work of our good friends at the Alliance for Progressive Values to pass a bill banning “conversion” (sometimes called “ex-gay” or “reparative”) therapy.

That is why we encourage you to join the EV “Day of Action,” colloquially known as Lobby Day, on January 28 in Richmond. I will be there, and I already know of some POFEV members who plan on attending.

It is going to be a tremendous day to bring the cause of equality to Richmond—read more—and people of faith have a key role to play. YOU are needed. So please register and participate.

So why is POFEV not having its own “Day of Action?”

john_marshall_courts_building.jpgWe are, actually. It’s called “Witness for Love!” 

But instead of focusing on Richmond, we will be focusing on 40 county and city courthouses all over Virginia—including Richmond City of course, but also Norfolk, Newport News, Petersburg, Henrico, Newport_News_courthouse.gifHanover, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Roanoke, Lexington, Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, Winchester, Leesburg, Fredericksburg, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, and about 20 others.

Loudoun_County_courthouse.jpgSome might say we are playing an “outside game” and working closely with others who are playing more of an “inside game” (not that EV and APV are not working outside Richmond!).

And if you are basketball fan like I am, you know both are necessary.

womens_basketball_jump.jpgPOFEV knows that working in the legislative and judicial processes is vital to the success of the equality movement. That’s why we work closely with EV, APV, the Virginia ACLU, Mothers and Others, transgender rights groups, and others to move change forward among elected and appointed state leaders.

But we also know that it is vital to help change the hearts and minds of ordinary Virginians, too—because, as we have said before, when equality comes (and it is coming!) it will be best when it is welcomed with eagerness and excitement and joy by the greatest possible number of our fellow citizens.

AND—here is another big AND—legislators, and yes, even judges, pay attention when citizens stand up and speak out.

So, you will find us—we will find each other—not only in the halls of the General Assembly Building at Ninth and Broad in Richmond supporting LGBT workers and families and youth—but on the sidewalks and squares in front of courthouses, and inside those courthouses, too, in the offices of county and city Circuit Court Clerks, making our case for full marriage equality.

let_the_people_decide.jpgBut lest you think this ends for POFEV on February 14, let me be clear.

We have an “inside” objective, too. The 2014 Witness for Love at 40 courthouses  is not the end goal, but the kickoff for a year of witnessing and changing hearts and minds with our goal being passage, in the 2015 General Assembly session, of a joint resolution to place on the 2016 ballot a proposal to repeal the Marshall-Newman Anti-Marriage Amendment to the Virginia Constitution.

We know that this is a long shot—but it can be done.

my_gay_children_deserve_equal_rights.jpgAnd the way it will be done is not only by argumentation among experts in Richmond but through sustained, growing, determined pressure by a broad range of Virginians—LGBT and straight folks, workers, business leaders,  clergy  and lay leaders in all faiths, children and youth, parents and grandparents, and aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, neighbors, doctors and lawyers and nurses and EMTs, Rotarians and Catholics and Protestants and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and goddess- and earth-worshippers, and everyone else, too.

So, go to the “Day of Action” on January 28 (you can register here) and then go to the next one on February 14 (you can sign up here).

Let’s build the change we need and want. Inside and out! 

We Can Make, We Are Making, Miracles

energy_rays.jpgby Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, POFEV President & CEO

December 23, 2013

This has been a year of immense growth for POFEV, marked by the promise of even more. It is not just that we have added hundreds of people to our mailing list, or that we have raised more funds this year than in all the prior years combined, or that we have our first full-time employee—all those things are true, of course—but more that there is a new energy among people of faith in every part of Virginia.

Clearly much of this is due to events beyond Virginia—court victories, votes in many states for marriage equality, President Obama being clear in his support for marriage by same-gender-loving couples, not to mention decisions by his administration in favor of a wide range of benefits for same-gender couples who are legally married.  

In some ways, it may seem to be happening everywhere but here. Virginia is still not for ALL lovers.

gavel.jpgBut things are changing here, too. Two federal court suits—one in Harrisonburg and the other in Norfolk—hold considerable promise. This may be especially true due to the recent decision in Utah, where federal District Judge Robert Shelby has ruled that state’s constitutional amendment violates equal protection under the law to which all Americans are entitled.

That Utah decision involves a constitutional provision not unlike Virginia’s—it is less elegantly written, but comes to pretty much the same result—but it is not an automatic jump east from Salt Lake City to Richmond. The federal judges here are not bound by it, but they surely will read it (and just to be sure they will, the lawyers from the ACLU and AFER will put it before them).

Utah_amendment_unconstitutional.jpgAnd it is very interesting how much Judge Shelby relies on a Virginia-based case, Loving v. Virginia. He reminds the Utah authorities that their claim to historic power for the states to determine marriage is valid, but it does not trump the right of individuals to equal protection—the liberty of persons is more vital than the prerogatives of state governments, a clear and central part of the ruling in the Loving case.

So, it is just going to get more exciting. Energy keeps building.

The court cases may move faster, they may not.

But whatever happens in court, it is up to the people to really create change. Courts can change laws, but it is people who change hearts and minds.

We can do that in our congregations, in our workplaces, in our families, at our town council meetings, everywhere  we encounter people who are alive and open and perhaps even wondering about these changes they see moving so rapidly. Indeed, I  pinch myself sometimes at the pace of change.

dancing_figures_of_energy.jpgAs a person of faith, I believe God is in all things, always eager and ready to help humanity move toward love and hope and joy and peace. All this change cannot simply be an accident. Nor can it be only the work of humans alone. God is at work here in Virginia.

Of course, God works through us, so what we do is vital. It is our call to act from the place of faith, from the assurance that God desires good for all.

So, my friends, let us get on with God’s work of bringing justice and equality to all Virginians. Together, with the God of our various understandings (including all the ways some people express faith even without being theistic), we can make miracles. . . . indeed we already are. 


Write to Congess, and Tell Them POFEV Sent You! 

By Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, POFEV President & CEO

November 26, 2013

EVThumbnailLarge.jpegOur friends at Equality Virginia are gearing up their campaign for the Virginia General Assembly to adopt legislation providing protection against discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.

POFEV_logo_for_web.jpgPOFEV gladly joins them in this work, working alongside EV in a coalition of groups that understand why employment non-discrimination protection is vital to a productive workforce. You’ll hear lots more about this soon.

In the meantime, they are urging POFEV members and friends to take a moment right now to let U.S. Congress members that we support the same thing at the federal level—the federal ENDA bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to federal protections for all workers currently protected by other federal non-discrimination laws. So it is a really big deal.

For the first time ENDA passed the U.S. Senate earlier in November (at the state level, the Virginia Senate passed state legislation earlier this year, also for the first time).

US_Capitol.jpgYou can help, right now. Use this link from EV to tell your U.S. Representative to urge Speaker Boehner to allow the bill to come to a vote (you will be asked for your zip code and then be directed to the appropriate representative). And if you live in the 7th Congressional District, as I do, you can let Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, know you want him to use his power to bring the bill to a vote.

Now, you are probably remembering that Speaker Boehner already said he won’t do it. So you are thinking, why should I bother?

Youve_got_mal.jpgHere’s why. Our legislators, federal and state, need to hear lots more from us. They need to know we are watching, even when they thumb their nose at us. And we need to get them used to hearing from us.

Christians know a story that Jesus tells—a pointed story meant to encourage his followers to be persistent—about a woman who hounds a judge for justice so much that he finally relents and acts on her behalf. That’s what we need to do with our legislators, federal and state.  

thank_you_with_rainbow_coloring.jpgAnd if yours is already supportive—some are, you know—we need to thank them for doing the right thing. You can do that with the EV link as well—just insert a “thank you for supporting this important legislation” in the message they have already for you to sign.

Here’s some other news. Did you know that 60 faith organizations are supporting the federal bill? Did you know that for the first time, the Islamic Society of North America—the country’s largest Muslim organization—is supporting the bill?

Vote.jpgDid you know it is common political wisdom that if the bill got to the floor, it would pass—enough Republicans and Democrats are willing to vote for it. It just needs to be presented for a vote.

That may not be true in the Virginia House—yet. But if we work really hard, and don’t let up, it is just possible that some opposition will fade.

One more thing: I mentioned having legislators thumb their nose at us.

Eric_Cantor.jpgI just discovered something about my Congressman, Mr. Cantor. When I submitted my letter through the EV link, I was asked by his web link to pick a topic area that represents my message.

I scrolled through the list of 54 topics. Guess what was missing? LGBT concerns, for one thing. Civil rights, for another.  Human rights, too. Discrimination.

I could have clicked any of those to represent the general topic of my letter. But none were there. The categories that seemed best were Labor, Unemployment, Economy, or Ethics.

unemployment.jpgWhat did I click? Unemployement. I figured that LGBT people who lose their job would be unemployed.  I also figured he was more interested in unemployment than labor, and the economy is such a big topic, and I was not sure anyone would understand why I picked ethics. I also could have chosen religion, because my concern arises out of my faith, at least in part, or family issues, because the family of a fired worker, for whatever reason, faces great distress.  But no category was there for me to feel like it really represented what I was wanting to convey.

I don’t agree with Rep. Cantor all that much, but I respect him as my Congressman. I know he works hard. I know he acts from what he believes is the best interest of the country. I thank him for that, and for serving.

listening_ear.jpgI just wish I felt like he wanted to hear from me, and others who have concerns about how minority groups—not just LGBT people but African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities and the differently abled and seniors—are treated. I have to believe he does want to hear, but I am going to write him right now and ask him to expand his list. I’d like to see this general topic, in writing—on his website.

If you agree with me, you can write him yourself.  You don’t have to be from his district. And you could check your Representative’s list, if you’d rather and write him (all our Virginia representatives are CongressMEN) if his list needs expanding.

Whoever your write, tell them POFEV sent you . . . . People of Faith for Equality in Virginia!

P.S. I posted my note about the issues lists to Congressman Cantor. I’ll let you know what I hear back. 

Can We, Will We, Talk?

by Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, POFEV President

October 31, 2013

Recent events remind me of how vital the work of POFEV is.

Medicaid_expansion_symbols.jpgFor example, on October 15, I spoke to the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission, the only speaker to directly address the health care needs of many LGBT Virginians without health insurance, especially those who are single and poor. You can read more about this here.

More recently, I joined other faith and community leaders at a meeting of the Richmond City Council where that body was considering adoption of an ordinance providing spousal benefits for city employees who are legally married to same-gender partners (it could only take effect when the constitutional ban on same–gender-loving unions is repealed or struck down in court).  Given the vitriol that opponents expressed in their testimony, including much harsh religious imagery, it was important that POFEV and other faith voices were heard.   

Speak_the_truth.jpgWe stand ready to go wherever our voice can make a difference—in public settings and in smaller groups in faith communities—whether that difference be to stand up against fear and negativity in the public realm or to help a faith community begin or continue internal dialogue about whether and how to change their practices and beliefs in the face of a changing world.

Our work is not only advocacy. Last week, at two gatherings of clergy—one in NoVA and a first one in Richmond (you can read more about this here)—we continued our work of bringing spiritual leaders from diverse traditions together, helping them to

  • gather together across the bounds of faith tradition,
  • learn more about issues affecting the LGBT community, and
  • grow in their individual and collective ability to promote inclusion and the ancient, and really universal, spiritual tradition of welcome and hospitality.     

In fact, that last point, about welcome and hospitality, may be a way for us to understand how the work of POFEV in the public square and the work of POFEV inside faith communities come together, how they are not as opposite as they sometimes seem.

Henry_Brinton.jpgI am indebted to Rev. Henry Brinton, Pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church (pictured right), for helping me to see this. As we met for lunch recently, he brought me a copy of his fine book, The Welcoming Congregation: The Roots and Fruits of Christian Hospitality. I have not read it all yet, but I can already see that the work of hospitality he promotes within the church—using the truth of Abraham and Moses, and Psalms and other Hebrew writings, as well as the example of Jesus and Paul and others to help a community become more diverse—can help us find language to speak across what seem like hard social boundaries to create more of what Dr. King dreamed of in the “beloved community.”

This language may help us begin to have conversations with people whose faith tradition still insists on seeing LGBT people only as sinners, as those who willfully break what they see as “God’s law.”  At the very least, it is a point of entry, I think, for those who want to move from that place of exclusion and judgment but don’t know how to even begin.

What Rev. Brinton sees in the practice of hospitality is the opportunity for people to become open to that which they previously ignored (perhaps willfully or perhaps not) and to the possibility of being changed in the process. When we stop seeing someone as “other,” and begin to relate to them as a real, living, breathing person, we often have to shift our views about them (and “their kind”).

This is not limited to the POFEV concerns about LGBT equality, and related issues. 

Interfaith_tree.jpgWe are an interfaith movement, and for many that is not always an easy place to be. Recently, I authored a statement in response to remarks by Bishop E.W. Jackson, candidate for Lieutenant Governor, in which he said that those who do not follow Jesus Christ “engage in some sort of a false religion.” I circulated it among a number of colleagues.

Two Richmond colleagues—a Presbyterian pastor and a rabbi in the Reform tradition of Judaism—offered  amendments that made the statement more accessible for more to sign. You can read the final version here.

More than 30 colleagues from around the state signed it. We circulated it to some media, although by the time we did so their attention had moved on to other issues.

But some colleagues were uncomfortable and declined to sign. They saw, rightly, that the heart of the statement is in the sentence, “We reject the proposition that there is only one way to God.” Few disagreed with it, but they knew that the people they serve and lead would be confused or angry were they to sign.

Facilitated_Dialogue.jpgIt is hard to admit sometimes that our way is not necessarily the best way, or even the only way. I know this is true for me at times, in arguments with my husband, to be sure, but also in larger, pubic matters.  For example, I really just cannot accept that the death penalty is ever right.

I don’t know if I can change that, but I do know that I want to be in community with people whose opposing views are just as strongly held as mine. I pray we might be able to talk in ways that do not dishonor each other, indeed that we find ways to hold ourselves open to the possibility of change. 

My hope, my prayer, is that the fruit of our work in POFEV will include not only a celebration of sexual and gender—and racial and ethnic and other—diversity and the legal recognition and protection of that diversity, but also bring about a expansion in our understanding and acceptance of all the faiths that make up the rich tapestry of belief and practice among God’s people.  

That’s the best way I know to bring about change, real lasting change. 

The Times They Are A-Changing

By Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline

October 21, 2013

The signs are everywhere. 

Some of them seem somewhat distant, even though exciting—e.g., New Jersey becoming the fourteenth state to adopt marriage equality.

Some are closer to home—the third major poll, this time from Christopher Newport University showing that at least 50% Virginians support marriage equality.  

Others take a moment or two to understand in their fullness.  

Del. Bob MarshallOne such sign is the race for Virginia Delegate in the 13th District. The district number probably means nothing to you, unless you live there, but any POFEV person knows something immediately when I add one pertinent fact: the current Delegate is named Bob Marshall.

And he is running for re-election.

I doubt any person reading this is unfamiliar with Delegate Marshall—if for no other reason than his name is attached to something we vigorously oppose: the Marshall-Newman Anti-Marriage Amendment. That’s the amendment to Virginia’s constitution, adopted in 2006, that forbids not only legal marriage between persons of the same gender but also civil unions, domestic partnerships, as well as “relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage.” That’s the amendment attorney Ted Olsen calls “draconian.” And despite significant social change on this issue, a review of Delegate Marshall’s website (www.delegatebob.com) shows he has not shifted his view.

Delegate Marshall, who wrote the amendment and House Bill 751 which preceded it as a statute, usually wins his district comfortably.

This year it seems to be a different matter. According to polling, he is running neck-and-neck against an opponent who, at first blush, might seem an unlikely challenger.

Atif QarniHis name is Atif Qarni. I won’t bore you with all the suggestions “spell check” posed for his first and last names! And just so you know, it is pronounced “ah-teef carne” (as in “Carney).

So his name is unusual, at least for most of us, the sort of name we might be more likely to read about in connection with Afghanistan or the Middle East, or perhaps in a story about an undocumented immigrant.

In truth, Mr. Qarni, who is identified as Pakistani-American, was in Iraq—as a Marine reservist deployed in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He grew up in Maryland, and earned his undergraduate degree from George Washington University in sociology, and later two master’s degrees: one in history from George Mason University and one in Educational Administration from Strayer University. He teaches 8th grade math at Beville Middle School in Prince William County. And he coaches sports, as well as teaches GED courses. He lives in Manassas with his wife Fatima, and their two sons, Zane and Saber.

What may be of great interest to POFEV members is that Mr. Qarni does not correspond to political stereotypes: he strongly supports marriage equality, for example, and opposes government intrusion into women’s bodies and choices (see http://www.northernvatimes.com/gainesville/news/qarni-challenges-marshall-in-13th-district).

Del.Bob Marshall & familyThis is a sign. The fact that Mr. Qarni is giving Delegate Marshall a real run is a sign. Win or lose, the race is showing us that the people of the 13th District are not so quick any more to reach for their automatic past preference (Marshall has been elected every two years since 1991). Or perhaps some might say their voting was motivated by homophobia or trans-phobia or gynophobia. A shift is happening, as is shown by the Washington Post poll from May that showed in Northern Virginia “exurbs” (which includes Prince William County) marriage equality is favored 54-34%.

That’s actually big news by itself.

Atif Qarni & famlyBut as the President of POFEV, I am just as excited about something else. Dare we hope that we might be seeing a reduction in Islamophobia? And might we also be seeing a warming in the relations between LGBT people in this country and parts of Islam which take a more traditional view of sexuality and gender?

Whatever label we may wear in politics, as people of faith, any faith and all faiths, this matters, especially because in POFEV we are, and seek always to be, an interfaith movement. All faiths welcome, just as all sexualities, genders, gender identities and expressions, abilities, ages, regions, etc. We welcome all political parties and, perhaps hardest for some of us, folks who lay claim to no faith or even claim atheism as their “spiritual” (my term) operating system.

So, I see many good signs in this context between Delegate Marshall and Mr. Qarni.

13th VA Delegate DistrictOne more thing: this trend in the 13th District, whatever the final outcome, it appears to give the lie to the disturbing remarks by Bishop E. W. Jackson, the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor—not just those in which he repeats negative, hurtful, even hateful, views of LGBT people, but those in which he claims that those who do not follow Jesus Christ “engage in some of a false religion.”

What Bishop Jackson forgets is that we not only no longer have a religious test for holding public office—that went out several hundred years ago--but also that we live in a pluralistic world in which the incredible diversity of God’s people (all people are God’s people) is reflected not only in their colors and races and nationalities and genders and sexualities, but also in their religious and spiritual paths. There are many ways to God, whatever name we use or group we join (or don’t).

For this latest reminder of that truth, it is instructive to witness the people of the 13th District as they openly engage Atif Qarni and Delegate Bob Marshall, wrestling with the important choice of who will represent them, and their changing world, in Richmond.  

Pushing the Tide of Love Across the Finish Line

Robin and Kim Denmark at Roanoke Prideby Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline

October 4, 2013

It’s pretty exciting, definitely inspiring, to receive so much support at the two most recent Pride events—Roanoke on September 21 and VA PrideFest in Richmond on September 28.

The support is for “Witness for LOVE!” the POFEV initiative to organize groups of marriage equality supporters to appear at 40 (or more) courthouses across Virginia on Valentine’s Day 2014.

These groups will include couples seeking Virginia marriage licenses, as well as couples with marriage certificates from other states and the District of Columbia who want their marriages recognized, their friends and families and children and co-workers and fellow congregants—anybody and everybody who supports marriage equality as a fundamental civil and human right in our Commonwealth and our nation.

It rained and drizzled the entire four hours Kim Denmark and I staffed our table (we got pretty wet, because we didn’t know we needed to bring a tent) and attendance was probably not what it might have been, but still we had more than 40 people sign up to help at various western courthouses.

And in Richmond the following week, where it was sunny and temperate, more than 100 people signed up. And more than 700 people plastered our new Witness for Love stickers on their shirts, hands, pants (front and back), arms, shopping bags, etc.  

Joe Cobb and happy Roanoke couple

This couple was blessed by Rev. Joe Cobb, Pastor of MCC of the Blue Ridge during Roanoke Pride.

You can feel the temperature rising—and that was before there was public word about the decision by Prop 8 super-lawyers Ted Olsen and David Boies to join the Bostic case in US District Court for the Eastern District in Virginia Beach. Now, as you know, we have two heavyweight legal teams — Olsen and Boies in the east, the ACLU/Lambda Legal in the west — arguing against Virginia’s “draconian” (Olsen’s accurate description) anti-Marriage Amendment.

People know this transformation is coming. We will have marriage equality—not same-sex marriage, not same-gender-loving marriage, but marriage (the fight is not to create a new type of marriage, but to once again open the institution and its rights to those excluded, just as was done for inter-racial couples, and slaves, and at one time people who did not belong to or practice the favored religions.

We will have this, and well before 2020. Mark my words.

But, as I have said before, we can’t leave this to the lawyers and the courts. The rest of us have to do our part, too. It won’t happen without us. We have to push the tide forward, and widen its path.

Robin_and_Brian_Reach_Mr._VA_Pride_at_VA_PrideFest.jpg

Brian Reach, right in picture, leader of Equality Fairfax and the reigning Mr. VA Pride, is helping POFEV organize Witness for LOVE!

And that’s the reason for “Witness for LOVE!” There needs to be a great groundswell of pro-active public support for marriage equality, and there needs to be a very clear witness by Virginians who want to be legally married in their home state, as well as those who have chosen to be married elsewhere but still cannot receive certain state benefits available to other legally married couples and individuals.

The courts need to see it, the General Assembly and Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General need to see it (and that is true whoever is elected next month), the media need to see it, the folks who are not sure how they feel need to see it. Even those who insist on proclaiming their allegiance to what they call “traditional marriage” need to see it. (Note: just which tradition do they mean—one man and many wives, marriages arranged by parents between an older man and a teenage girl, a whites  can only marry whites and blacks can only marry blacks marriage, or only whites and free black slaves can marry (but not each other) marriages?)

Alexandria Hawkins at VA PrideFest Sept. 28, 2013The public support is needed for several reasons. First, there is no guarantee the court cases will produce the right result (it may seem likely, but it is not guaranteed).  Second, the court cases could take a while and repeal of the anti-Marriage Amendment, which could come as early as 2016, might get us there faster.  And perhaps most important, we need to change some more hearts and minds. Whenever, however, the inevitable happens, it will help that a huge majority of the citizenry are not only ready but also eager for the change (one who is eager is Alexandria Hawkins, in the photo at right from our VA PrideFest booth in Richmond).

Elkton PrideSo, as Kim Denmark, our Pride Coordinator, and I go to Elkton Pride this Sunday, and I as continue to speak and preach at congregations and other events in the coming months, we look forward to signing up hundreds, even thousands, of Virginians for this witness on February 14.

I hope you’ll be one of them. You can do it right now, by going to our Witness for LOVE! page and signing up for your courthouse. We’ll bring folks together and give you the tools you need to have a successful event, but we need you!

And you can donate, too—it is going to take some people and materials to make it happen—items that cost money. Click on the donate button at www.pofev.org or send a check to POFEV, PO Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220.

We will have this before 2020, if we all do our part. I’m ready for a New Virginia and I’m ready to do my part to bring it about. What about you?

(10/4/13 - Pushing the Tide of Love Across the Finish Line)

 Inspiration and Joy on the Road

by Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline

September 17, 2013

One of the great pleasures of my work as President of POFEV is traveling all over our beautiful Commonwealth, connecting with old friends and making new ones. And I treasure being able to share the mission of POFEV for equality for LGBT Virginians—and anchoring that in a wider movement to create a new Virginia—and to see the signs of recognition and support and joy from people who want to help.

This past weekend—which involved almost 500 miles—was filled with wonderful people, including many new friends, and we gained considerable support for the work of POFEV.

Charlottesville

September is Pride month in Virginia, beginning in Charlottesville on the 14th. That community is diverse, with a higher than average proportion of counter-cultural influences, and so the Pride celebration was awash in many people with brightly-colored hair and superb  folk-singers (as well as some wonderfully flamboyant drag queens), and a higher proportion of spiritual groups (not just churches, but Buddhist and other meditation groups, and my old friends Revs. Elisheva and Wade Clegg, of the Interfaith Humanitarian Sanctum and Blue Ridge Rainbow Ceremonies) than usual.

Many people stopped by our booth—Hershey dark chocolate nuggets with almonds, soft mints, and suckers for the kids were a big hit—and I had good  conversations with people eager to participate in the POFEV Witness for LOVE! on February 14, 2014 (see more at www.pofev.org).

Robin Gorsline, Harris-Duffs, Mary Ann ArcherEspecially gratifying was the visit to the booth by two of the lead plaintiffs in the ACLU/Lambda Legal suit in federal district court against the Virginia anti-marriage amendment, Joanne and Jessica Harris-Duff, of Staunton (pictured in the middle between me and someone very special to me, my spiritual director of almost ten years, Mary Ann Archer of Hampden-Sydney). They thanked us for our efforts to generate widespread public support for them and the suit, helping to create a new climate in Virginia that recognizes the dignity of all our citizens (including, of course, their young son).

Communion at Charlottesville PrideI also met in person for the first—after quite a few emails over the past year—Rev. Melanie Miller, the Pastor at Sojourners United Church of Christ in Charlottesville, a congregation that was one of the very earliest supporters of POFEV.  

And I, along with many others, was blessed by receiving communion from Melanie (right in picture) who was part of a roving group of clergy with Rev. Janet McDonald (left), and  Rev. Heather Warren (center) of St. Paul’s Memorial Church (Episcopal) in Charlottesville, sharing the sacred meal.  

Winchester and Vicinity

On Sunday, it was a drive from my home in Richmond northwest to Winchester—Route 17 from Fredericksburg to Winchester has to be among the most beautiful in our gorgeous state, especially the spectacular valley view near Paris (yes, Paris, VA). It was a great introduction to what proved to be an especially rich spiritual journey.

Paris, Virginia ValleyFirst stop, the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley in Stephens City, where I was greeted by the Minister, Rev. Dr. Paul Britner. I had called Paul to ask him if I could stop by to say THANK YOU to him and the congregation for their amazing witness for marriage equality last February. When he introduced me to the congregation near the beginning of worship, he asked all who had participated in that witness to stand; I was stunned and thrilled when more than half of the 100 or so in worship stood!!!!

Robin Gorsline and Paul BritnerWhat did they do in February? They  conducted “rolling vigils” during the week of Valentine’s Day (Monday to Sunday), moving from Front Royal to Strasburg to Berryville to Winchester (2 days in different locations), and Stephens City. You know they made a difference in their part of the world!

In the afternoon, I drove to Falls Church to the home of Tom Nichols and Dan Chadburn to share in the celebration of music by Lea (just one name), and to discuss with them, and Rev. Dr. David Ensign of Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington (and a POFEV Board member) a concert to benefit POFEV soon. Watch for news about this!

Friends Meeting House in WinchesterThen, it was back to Winchester in the evening, to meet with the steering committee of a new church plant, Metropolitan Community Church of the Shenandoah Valley, and to preach at their service (held at the Friends Meeting House on North Washington Street). It is hard work planting a church, especially one few have heard of, but if anyone can do it I think they can. They are a faithful group, and they also understand the role of advocacy in the culture of the global MCC movement. Thus, many signed up to participate in the Witness for Love next February.

Where Next?

I am so blessed to be engaged in this work, to share the spiritual journey of justice and wholeness with so many people. Our numbers are growing day by day all over this state that we want to help live up to its name as a Commonwealth. Maybe I’ll see you at Pride in Roanoke this Saturday, September 21, or Richmond for Pride the following Saturday, September 28, or Commonwealth Baptist in Alexandria on the 29th

I hope I see you soon, in your town, at your congregation, at Pride celebrations, or other events. And if you’d like me to visit, just email me at revdocrobin@gmail.com or call me at 804/519-3196. I’ll be glad to be inspired by your scenery and to share with you the joy of building the beloved community where you live and worship and work.

(9/17/13 - Inspiration and Joy on the Road)

POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 • www.facebook.com/pofev

email info@pofev.org