LGBTQ community members gather to discuss anti-discrimination legislature

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV)— Virginia is working to pass legislation to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination and a local panel was held in Harrisonburg to discuss the impact of the possible new law.

Equality Virginia and Shenandoah Valley Equality hosted a panel of local experts to talk about the need for statewide comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community at the Equality Forum.

Many are hoping the law will be passed in the next few months and will protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations.

The Commonwealth is home to 257,400 LGBTQ adults. Virginia is one of 30 states in the country without legislation that protects LGBT citizens against various forms of discrimination, which means they can be fired, evicted or denied service in restaurants or stores.

At the event, panelists shared anecdotes and examples of why passing protections is critical in the 2020 General Assembly.

"If you can still be fired for who you love or how you identify, or denied housing and not being able to put a roof over your head, then how do you become a productive member of society, how do you contribute, how do you become a thriving part of the community?" James Parrish, Director of the Virginia Values Coalition said.

Parrish said the LGBTQ community is vibrant and thriving in Virginia, but they only make up about 5 percent of people, so he hopes for more support from allies and advocates.

"It's really hard to find safe places where you can work and live and have families. We just want to be like everybody else," William Martin, a member of the Transgender Advocacy Speakers Bureau, said.

Martin says they are spreading awareness and educating communities, like Harrisonburg, across Virginia because many people think there are already laws protecting the LGBTQ community.

Parrish said the best way to show your support the passing of this law is to contact your state senators and delegates and let them know you want to see the LGBTQ community protected.