By Ryan Cornell
Same-sex couples in Virginia were celebrating a momentous Valentine's Day after a federal court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage on Thursday.
The ruling would allow same-sex couples to marry in Virginia and extend the same rights to same-sex couples legally married elsewhere, pending an appeal.
Holly Hewlett, a Winchester resident and equal rights advocate, said the issue has never been about special rights.
"It's about having the same rights as any U.S. citizen," she said. "The government should never be involved in choosing who to love."
Hewlett married her wife, Tonja, in Vermont three years ago and said that once the ruling takes effect she will be able to claim marriage benefits on their taxes and, if something were to happen, earn custody of Tonja's daughter. She added that Tonja would also be able to have hospital visiting privileges as a spouse.
"I'm very excited," she said. "I wish she [Judge Wright Allen] hadn't stayed her decision, but I understand why she did. It allows for everyone's voice to be heard. It's not about pushing the gay agenda, it's about letting everyone's voice be heard."
Hewlett mentioned the Loving vs. Virginia case and said the commonwealth has a long history of having to be dragged into the future.
"Just like the dismantling of slavery, people get to the point where they realize, 'I need to stop being on the wrong side of history,'" she said.
The Winchester chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) had planned to demonstrate in front of the city's courthouse on Friday before the snowstorm canceled the event.
Although the snow had been predicted, PFLAG Treasurer Derek Fox said the ruling was not.
"I didn't know they would have a ruling so soon," he said. "It was kind of a surprise.
"It impacts us a lot because some of the people who have come to our meetings have been wed in other states," he said. "As long as it's not appealed, they'll be recognized in this area."
He said the issue is also one that affects him personally.
As a gay man, Fox said he would like to be able to tie the knot in Virginia someday. He said a relative of his who is a lesbian and was married in Washington, D.C. will now be able to enjoy the same rights as other married couples.
"If their spouse dies, they'll be able to get the estate," he said.
Fox said that pending any appeals, the ruling could lead to more states in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit legalizing same-sex marriage such as West Virginia and North Carolina.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia was one of the parties filing a case on behalf of two Harrisonburg couple certified as a class action representing all same-sex couples in Virginia, which will continue in federal district court.
In a statement, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Gastañaga said, "This is a wonderful day for all loving and committed couples in Virginia who only ever wanted the same protections for the families as anyone else."
In the spirit of the occasion, some have taken the commonwealth's ubiquitous slogan and added a word: Virginia is for "all" lovers.
*And to think one year after our demonstration at the Winchester Courthouse, we've come this far! We'd like to thank everyone who participated then and the LGBT friendly churches who stood with us as well!*
transgender government employee who was fired from her job in the
Georgia state legislature because her boss felt uncomfortable about her
transitioning was the victim of unconstitutional sex-based
discrimination, according to a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
“We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection
Clause’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a
transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender
non-conformity,” the court wrote
View HERE to see Channel 3 Winchesters coverage of PFLAG and the Ward family!
A local mother is speaking out
about how she was inspired to get involved in a national organization
after her teenage son told her he's gay.
support for parents, families, and friends of gays and lesbians.The
local LGTB community is opening up and working to support teens and
their families that may have no where else to turn.
Ward, president of PFLAG Winchester said through tear-filled eyes,
"Stand by your child. I mean, he's got a friend, and I can't give names,
but he's got a friend that's a lesbian, and her mother doesn't support
At 14-years-old Ward's son came out as a gay teen,
which inspired her to get involved with a little-known group in
Winchester called PFLAG.
She added, "I don't think the
name does it justice now, because we're trying to reach everyone. We're
trying to not just families of lesbians and gays but lesbians and gays.
We're opening up to teenagers...All ages."
The group of about 30 meets outside of Stephens City and provides support for people like Ward's son, Dutch Montley.
Montley added, "It's nice to have someone out there that you can relate to and know that knows what you're going through."
While the need for support in high school and at home might be true, students at Shenandoah University say there's plenty of support for the LGBT community.
Emily Ehrgott, explained, "I do think that there's a lot of support
here at Shenandoah. Even in our spiritual life department, there's a lot
of support, which isn't common in a lot of spiritual life aspects."
Though support may be strong at some institutions, at least one PFLAG member says it all starts at home.
continued, "You may not agree with it. You may not like it, and I'll
say it's a slap in the face when you find out, but you've got to support
Support is what Ward and her counterparts at PFLAG are all about.
The group meets the third Sunday of every month. For more on meetings click here.
|| News ||
Page 1 of 1Posted on Advocate.comSeptember 27, 2011 12:30:00 PM ET
Adam Lambert and Mother Both Honored by PFLAG
By Jeremy Kinser
Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays handed out awards last Sunday to both entertainer Adam Lambert, for using his "authentic" voice, and his mother, Leila, for being so supportive of her gay son.
Mother and son received awards that when put together represent the PFLAG logo, which consists of an inverted triangle and an interlocking heart.
Leila recalls the sense of camaraderie she felt when attending her first PFLAG meeting. "I really feel like we are in this together," she says. "It takes all of us to do this. We really need to be supportive. We as straight people, we as gay people, we all need to be together on this. It really makes a huge difference."
Adam shared that he was touched to be honored alongside his mother. "I really came here for my mom," he says. "Because she got so excited about PFLAG and told me about the organization, and I said that's great, I'm glad you're getting involved. She told me about the work that you guys do. ... It's really exciting to know that there are people that help support the parents as well, because it is a tough thing."
Watch video of the presentation below.
August 29, 2011
By Jennifer Ward Printed in Winchester Star
LGBT community has same dream as everyone else: a family
refuse to write based on terms liberal or conservative. Although I vote,
I am not a hard-core political person, nor will I try to portray myself
as such. We are all the same; we are Americans living in the land of
the free, and I am the proud mother of a 15-year-old gay son.
found myself appalled at the outlandish writing of D.F. McNeill, who, in
his Open Forum (Aug. 13) couldn't have been any further from the real
impact of same-sex marriage, or lack thereof, on today's society. We
cannot consider the values and laws in use during the times of Plato and
Aristotle anymore than we can consider the values and laws during
slavery in the 1700s and 1800s, or the values and laws prior to 19th
Amendment granting women the right to vote.
Let's also remember
that through time, there are documented lesbians and gays who played a
positive roll in American history, such as Katherine Lee Bates (wrote
the words to "America the Beautiful") who was in a committed
partnership, described as a "romantic friendship," with Katharine Coman,
for 25 years until Coman's death. As time goes by, things change,
technology, science, traditions and so must society.
McNeill, "They (Katherine Franke and her female partner) keep their
domestic partnership (rather than marry), which allows them freedom to
have 'relationships' outside the 'narrow bounds' of marriage. In
heterosexual parlance, this is called adultery." It is better defined as
an open relationship in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.
Adultery, by definition, is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a
form of extramarital sex. Clearly, Franke and partner were choosing not
to commit adultery by choosing not to marry.
difference between the heterosexual culture and homosexual culture is
that homosexual people are able to love a person of the same sex on a
much greater level than a person of the opposite sex. In reverse, the
differences between the cultures is that heterosexual people are able to
love a person of the opposite sex on a much greater level than a person
of the same sex. This is the only difference. It has nothing to do with
the number of partners one has or the type of sexual encounters they
have. It is clearly about love. Heterosexual and homosexual
relationships, when compared, are based on the same principle, loving
one human at a higher level then any other human.
When speaking of
gay marriage in today's society and debating the need, I pose these
questions. When did you decide to be straight? When did you decide to be
attracted to that tall dark and handsome man, or that thin blonde with
golden locks? Were you 10 years old, maybe 12 or 13, when you woke one
morning and decided, "Hey, I'm going to be attracted to the opposite sex
As mother of a gay son, I found myself crying when he
came out of the closet four months ago at the age of 14. I didn't know
why I cried at first, but then I did. I cried because all my dreams for
him were gone, and because I would probably have no biological
grandchildren by him. Lastly, I cried because I knew the difficult life
he had ahead. I knew the close-minded thinking of many who would never
consider the fact that no person would ever choose a life filled with
hatred, rejection and ridicule.
After the initial shock, I
realized the day he came out was the day he started living his dreams.
That was the day he knew I loved him for whom he truly is, not the lie
he lived. Why shouldn't he be allowed to fulfill all his dreams, like
Like the great words of Martin Luther King, "I have a dream."
So does my son. Why shouldn't he be able to live his dream, the one so
many others in the LGBT community have: a family, with all its benefits?
The same people who can't marry because they are the same sex, can't
have all the benefits of a family, are allowed, whether spoken or
unspoken lesbians and gays, to fight for our freedom, to give their live
for us, to ensure the very laws and way of life that gives us all the
right to vote against their right to marry, their right to have their
dream come true.
Allowing same-sex marriage could lower the
divorce rate, currently between 40 and 50 percent, and stop some
children from being raised in broken families. If society accepted
same-sex relationships and marriage, homosexuals would feel no need to
conceal who they really are. Homosexuals would not attempt to hide their
true identity behind marriages with no love, solely to portray
themselves as what is acceptable.
Again, I have questions to pose.
How would you handle our government, people who do not personally know
you, choosing whom you can marry? Would you rather my gay son marry the
love of his life or your daughter?
None of us know the trials the
LGBT community face on a daily basis. Nor can we know their beliefs and
values. Each is an individual, no different than everyone else. I extend
an invitation to each and every reader, to anyone wanting knowledge and
or support, to attend a monthly PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends
of Lesbians and Gays) meeting held the third Sunday of each month at the
Unitarian-Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley at 6 p.m. To
end, I will go back to Plato, as McNeill started. "A good decision is
based on knowledge and not on numbers."
Jennifer Ward is president of PFLAG
of Winchester and the Lower
This is a shout out to Virginians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.
is a shout out to Virginians who are allies, friends, family of people
who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer.
This is a shout out to Virginians who believe in the mission of the Action Alliance, that ALL people have the right to a life free of violence.
Staff of the Action Alliance are committed to creating a hotline dedicated to LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and hate crime violence
We have a core group of staff who have developed a plan and a timeline
to make the plan happen. What we do not have is enough funding to make
it a reality. We have written several proposals (both government grant
and private foundation) which have not been funded.
that we would need to effectively do a strategic marketing campaign is
$16,000. With the minimum we would engage current hotline staff in
intensive training and would utilize staff with expertise in LGBTQ
issues to provide support to the hotline staff. Ideally, we would raise
much more money, suffucient to add at least a half time staff person to
do some statewide organizing to assure that the availability of the
hotline is widely known and that service providers in the "traditional"
sector are provided with solid technical assistance as they provide
services to the LGBTQ community.I am writing all of you to ask for your help to make this happen.
What fund-raising commitments can you make? What fund-raising plans
can you share? What grants, foundations, or other financial resources
might support this effort? We don't have to raise this money in one,
big chunk - we can do it in lots of little piles.Let's start the conversation. Let's ORGANIZE to make this hotline happen for LGBTQ survivors in Virginia!
I can't wait to hear from you ~
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance804.377.0335
August 19, 2011
By Ana Beatriz Cholo
When I watched the new Stop SB48 video ad yesterday, I noticed it had
five likes, seven dislikes and about 100 views. I became the eighth
person to give it a “thumbs down.” I posted it on Courage’s Facebook page and tweeted about it.
For obvious reasons, it touched a nerve. After all, this is an
offensive video that’s chock full of lies. Some people, disturbed after
watching it, made the comment that perhaps we should ignore it and not
We need to do all we can to expose the likes of Pastor Jack Hibbs of
Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills. He and his ilk are not shying away from
what they are doing. Hibbs’ role is clear: he’s the shepherd tending to
his sheeple. His job is to scare his flock into believing that the
world might just end if schoolchildren get an inkling that – shudder –
Walt Whitman was, in fact, gay, or that for the first time in history,
gay individuals fought back against discriminatory, government-sponsored
raids in 1969. This, of course, sparked the gay rights movement
globally during the Stonewall Riots.
In turn, our job is to educate our friends and neighbors on how the
FAIR Education Act is not about indoctrinating kids to a gay “lifestyle”
or teaching kids to “become” gay. And isn’t it so bizarre that the
bigots are, in ways subtle and not, always obsessing about sex?
Anyway, what the new law does is free up teachers to teach history in
an accurate and comprehensive manner. For example, under the new law,
they would now be able to include a lesson on Harvey Milk in the civil
rights unit without getting any backlash like they have in the past.
Ignoring the haters won’t make them magically go away. We need to
expose them for who and what they are. Let’s not let them get away with
Oh, and while you’re here, can you go ahead and give this hateful little video a thumbs down? Thanks!
Here’s the email we sent out to our members this morning:
It’s like Prop 8 all over again. The Stop SB48
campaign — the folks trying to erase LGBT people from California’s
history books — are up with their first online ad, which you can see on
the right. Just as we expected, it’s filled with the same misleading
lies that our opponents used to pass Prop 8. We can’t let this stand.
We need your help to respond ASAP. Can you chip in NOW to help us fight back?
It’s an understatement to say that the ad about SB 48 — the FAIR
Education Act — is offensive. Pastor Jack Hibbs of Calvary Chapel in
Chino Hills (where I grew up) does a spectacular job of twisting the
law’s true intent — to be respectful and inclusive of LGBT
contributions throughout history. Here are just a few choice quotes from
“The indoctrination of our children regarding gay and
lesbian, transgender lifestyles and practices as it relates to state
history, as it relates to US history, and as it relates to our own
economy…This new teaching, frankly, comes against the very ministry of
Jesus Christ, the word of God, and you and I.”
“If we don’t stop it, this will be the indoctrination of
our children, on our watch…There’s no opting out for your student, they
must take this course, there’s no getting away from it.”
You and I know better. Folks like Equality California and the
Gay-Straight Alliance Network worked hard to pass the FAIR Education Act
to make the curriculum more inclusive — inclusive of movements like
the push to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Stonewall Riots.
Inclusive of gay and lesbian figures like Billie Jean King, Walt
Whitman, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk. But if we don’t get that word
out, their lies will seem like truth.
America is made stronger by telling the story of all Americans:
black, Latino, gay, straight, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. We are all
part of the powerful fabric that builds our nation. Pretending that
some of us don’t exist is not the American way.
Click here to watch their video, and chip in to respond today… before their lies start to stick.
Thanks for all you’re doing,
– Arisha Hatch, National Field Director, Courage Campaign
Our volunteers were out on Saturday, April 9th to help support Aids Response Effort's walk. We talked with a number of people about their stories and invited them to come share those stories with us.
2009, under then-Governor Tim Kaine, new regulations were proposed that
would prevent child welfare agencies in the state from discriminating
against prospective adoptive and foster parents on the basis of sexual
orientation. These regulations are scheduled to go into effect in two
weeks. But one man, Governor Bob McDonnell, stands in the way of ending
this discrimination, stating that he opposes these regulations, and
will suspend their implementation.
a state where 32 percent of youth age out of the foster care system
without permanent placements, where over 1,600 children are waiting to
find a loving and supportive home, and where over 45 percent of young
people in the foster care system who have been through three or more
placements, how can Governor McDonnell possibly justify limiting the
number of qualified potential parents?
Rabbi Horowitz was here on Sunday March 20th and we all had a wonderful time. The rabbi is a PFLAG Dad, and shared his story of his daughters coming out to him. Even as a liberal Rabbi, he struggled with his daughters news, and is a shining example of how we can go from tolerance to acceptance to CELEBRATION!The Winchester Star gave this story fantastic coverage here.