Virginia Beach advocates announce new LGBT equality coalition

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Virginia Beach residents gathered today at Neptune Park to announce a new coalition effort, Virginia Beach for Fairness, to support LGBT equality through laws in Virginia.

Members of the coalition include veterans, business owners, people of faith and LGBT community members and their families who aim to raise awareness about the need to update Virginia’s laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

Current Virginia law has some protections for LGBT individuals, but no legal protections are currently outlined for housing and private-sector employment.

“I was born in Virginia Beach and have spent most of my life here. Virginia Beach is a wonderful place to live – but as a young gay man, I felt I had to leave to be my authentic self because Virginia Beach did not feel like a welcoming place for people like me,” said Michael Berlucchi, Virginia Beach for Fairness co-chair, Community Engagement Manager for the Chrysler Museum of Art and member of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission. “Unfortunately, my story is not unique. I know firsthand that many young LGBT people leave Virginia to live in states where they know they will be protected from discrimination. We must do everything we can to make Virginia a welcoming place for all people to live, work, and thrive.”

“My time in the military gave me profound respect for my country,” said Tracey Swinarsky, a transgender advocate and claims representative for Geico also serving as a Virginia Beach for Fairness co-chair. “America’s founding promise of freedom and opportunity is what makes it so special. And that’s why it’s so disheartening that here in Virginia, gay and transgender Virginians can be fired from a job or denied housing simply because of who they are.”

“All parents want our children to be safe, healthy, and happy. But no parent should have to worry that their kid will be denied a job or housing simply because of who they are or who they love,” said Kathy Hinson, Virginia Beach for Fairness co-chair, public servant and mother of three. “Every member of the LGBT community is someone’s child. When it comes to being able to earn a living, having a place to live or being served by a business or government office, gay and transgender people should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.”

The Virginia Beach for Fairness coalition will host its next community meeting 7 p.m. August 1 at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library in Virginia Beach. The event will be open to the public, and all interested members of the community are encouraged to attend.

The coalition will host other events over the coming months with faith leaders, veterans, and Virginians from all political backgrounds. For more information on the coalition’s efforts, you can visit their website.