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Northern Virginia Daily & Same-sex Marriage

posted Feb 25, 2014, 6:27 PM by Ronnie Luethy   [ updated Feb 25, 2014, 6:31 PM ]

Area residents applaud court ruling

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!*

Federal Court rules anti-trans bias violates Constitution

posted Dec 7, 2011, 7:29 AM by Ronnie Luethy   [ updated Dec 7, 2011, 7:29 AM ]

December 6, 2011 / Denis Dison / Uncategorized

courtA 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

Untitled Post

posted Oct 24, 2011, 5:39 PM by Ronnie Luethy

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.

PFLAG provides 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.

Jennifer 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 her."


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.

Student, 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.

Ward 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 them."


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.

PFLAG Awards Adam Lambert's Mom

posted Sep 28, 2011, 5:15 PM by Unknown user

|| News ||
Page 1 of 1
Posted on Advocate.comSeptember 27, 2011 12:30:00 PM ET

Adam Lambert and Mother Both Honored by PFLAG

By Jeremy Kinser
Adam Lambert Leila Lambert PFLag X390 (SOURCED) | ADVOCATE.COM

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.

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Open Forum: Why not same-sex marriage

posted Aug 30, 2011, 3:32 PM by Ronnie Luethy

August 29, 2011
By Jennifer Ward Printed in Winchester Star

LGBT community has same dream as everyone else: a family

I 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.

I 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.

To quote 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.

The essential 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 today"?

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 us?

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
Shenandoah Valley.

This is a shout out!

posted Aug 26, 2011, 5:58 AM by Ronnie Luethy

This is a shout out to Virginians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.

This 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.

The minimum 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 ~

Sherrie Goggans
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance
804.377.0335 (phone)
804.377.0339 (fax)

The votes are in: the new “Stop SB48″ video gets a resounding “thumbs down”

posted Aug 21, 2011, 12:40 PM by Ronnie Luethy

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 publicize it.

Wrong answer.

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 this stuff.

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 ad:

“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


PFLAG and ARE Aids Awareness Walk

posted Apr 12, 2011, 4:13 PM by Ronnie Luethy

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.

Help Open More Permanent Homes for Virginia Foster Children Today

posted Apr 11, 2011, 4:30 PM by Ronnie Luethy

In 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.

In 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?

March 20th Meeting a success!

posted Apr 11, 2011, 2:28 PM by Unknown user

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.

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