More than 140 faith leaders across Virginia are expressing support for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians by signing on as members of the Virginia Values Coalition. Organized by Equality Virginia, the state’s leading advocacy organization seeking equality for LGBT people, the Virginia Values Coalition is a statewide group of faith leaders, law enforcement officers, business leaders and citizens from all walks of life who believe in protecting LGBT neighbors from discrimination. The Coalition will advocate in the next General Assembly for statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces.
Under current Virginia law – as in 29 other U.S. states – LGBT people are not explicitly protected from discrimination, which means they can be fired, evicted or denied service in restaurants or stores. Faith Coalition members will take on a variety of activities to raise awareness about the need for protections over the next few months, from public outreach initiatives, hosting community conversations and engaging directly with lawmakers ahead of the General Assembly.
“My faith teaches me that we are all equal and infinitely valuable in the eyes of God, and that we should strive to support and love each other,” said Reverend John Rohrs of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Norfolk. “LGBT people are no exception and should have the same basic protections as everyone else – to live their lives with safety, privacy and dignity. That’s why I was proud to join the Virginia Values coalition alongside nearly 150 of my fellow Virginia faith leaders to call for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces.”
The Coalition encompasses a diverse cross-section of churches, synagogues and institutions from across the commonwealth representing Jewish, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran and other faith traditions.
“We support all families working and living in our community,” said Reverend Monica Weber of Luther Memorial Lutheran Church of Blacksburg, a Coalition member. “All people deserve these basic protections. One of the most important values we have as people of faith is treating others the way we want to be treated. Failing to protect others from discrimination goes against that principle and hurts us all.”
“As a faith leader, I believe I must do everything in my power to ensure that Virginia is a safe and welcoming place for all people, including members of the LGBT community,” said Coalition member Rabbi Michael Knopf of Temple Beth-El in Richmond. “I recognize the harm caused to our community when our state lacks the vital protections to ensure that no one is fired from a job, denied housing or refused service simply because of who they are or who they love.”