Virginia governor signs LGBTQ+ Advisory Board Bill

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 7:44 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam signed legislation that creates a state-wide, LGBTQ+ advisory board.

The executive panel will advise the governor on policies impacting the LGBTQ community. It will be made up of 26 members and 21 of them will be citizens.

Joanna Keller works with the program committee at the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center and helps with the Transgender Closet at the center. Keller said she will apply in hopes of showing rural representation in Richmond.

“Most representatives are from the big cities: Norfolk, Roanoke, Richmond, Northern Virginia. But the rural areas are not represented at all,” Keller said. “I feel like I could have a very big voice in all the rural areas and working with all the city people to sit down and formulate some programs for everyone.”

When moving to Virginia over a decade ago, Keller said she thought the Commonwealth was beyond compared to other states in terms of LGBTQ+ representation and resources, but these “big strides” are moving the state in the right direction.

In rural communities, Keller said the LGBTQ+ community faced different challenges including limited health care opportunities, poor housing options and little education.

“I think if a lot of adults had [LGBTQ+] information to be able to go, ‘I need to understand this before we sit down and discuss it as a family,’ it would help greatly,” Keller said. “Most people don’t know where to go. I know my parents didn’t know where to go.”

Keller said the state’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board is a step in the right direction and she appreciates the support from Northam.

The advisory board goes into effect July 1, followed by the governor’s appointments.

Northam currently has five advisory boards: the African-American Advisory Board, the Asian Advisory Board, the Complete Count Commission, the Council on Women, and the Latino Advisory Board.

For more information on Virginia’s Boards and Commissions application process, click here.

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