Chess Growing in Popularity at Wakefield HS — A hot new trend with students at Wakefield High School: chess. The school offers chess boards for students and teachers to use during their lunch periods. Five or six students were regular players at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year the number of students playing on a weekly basis grew to around 200, including standout varsity athletes like Amari Cooper and Ben Horsford. [InsideNova]
Religious Protesters Picket Freddie’s — A pair of religious protesters held signs and chanted anti-gay slogans outside of Crystal City LGBTQ watering hole Freddie’s Beach Bar over the weekend. Despite their message of intolerance, owner Freddie Lutz invited the two in to have a dialogue about their beliefs and why Lutz is proud of his bar and customers. [Washington Blade]
Ballston Mall Owner to Be Sold — The Cleveland-based owner of the revamped Ballston Quarter mall is being sold to a Toronto-based management company, Brookfield Asset Management, for a reported $11.4 billion. [Washington Business Journal]
Hot Day Ahead — Anyone spending time outdoors today should hydrate frequently and take proper precautions. The heat index is expected to climb into the 90s or even the low 100s. An air quality alert is also in effect. [Twitter, Twitter, National Weather Service]
Energy Rebate Program Ending — Arlington’s energy rebate program, which provides rebates to homeowners who add high-efficiency HVAC or water heaters, or who perform other energy-saving work, is ending due to county budget cuts. The last day to apply is today, June 18. [Twitter, EcoAction Arlington]
Rosslyn Bus Tunnel to Open — “A long-delayed bus tunnel in Rosslyn that is expected to help ease traffic in the area and significantly speed up bus trips has now been turned over to Metro, and should formally open within weeks. Metrobus and Arlington’s ART routes are expected to begin using the street-level tunnel June 24 through a glitzy new building between N. Moore Street and N. Lynn Street.” [WTOP]
GOP Beyer Challenger Courts LGBT Voters — “Thomas Oh, the Republican candidate embarked on an uphill quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), is reaching out to a constituency often left untapped by local Republican candidate. ‘I proudly support the LGBT community. I firmly believe in providing equality for every American,’ Oh said as he marched with the Capital Area Young Republicans in the recent Capital Pride Parade in the District of Columbia.” [InsideNova]
County Board Approves DARPA Changes — “Citing its desire to retain DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency headquartered in Ballston, the Arlington County Board today unanimously approved adding 1,265 square feet to its building for a secure screening and visitor check-in facility.” [Arlington County]
Graduations at Arlington High Schools — Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools help their respective graduation ceremonies last week. Said Wakefield’s class president: “Just because this chapter of our lives is closing, we will prevail and go on to do great. The thing is, don’t think of this as a ‘goodbye,’ but a ‘see you later.'” [InsideNova, InsideNova, InsideNova]
Photo courtesy @TheLastFC
Hotel Planned for Pike Development — Attendees at yesterday’s Columbia Pike Progress Luncheon learned that Orr Partners — which is redeveloping the Food Star grocery store and adjacent sites at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive — has partnered with WhyHotel for the mixed-use project. WhyHotel touts itself as an operator of “pop-up hotels in newly built, luxury apartment buildings.” [Twitter]
County Launches LGBTQ Resource Website — Arlington County has partnered with the Human Rights Commission to develop a website with local, state and national resources for the LGBTQ community. The resources cover a range of topics including housing, domestic violence, sexual assault, health and youth needs. [Arlington County]
Mitten Departing for Illinois — Arlington Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten has accepted the job of City Administrator for Urbana, Ill. “I look forward to advancing common goals for a safe, healthy, sustainable city through thoughtful growth,” she said in a statement. [Smile Politely]
Location Named for Dominion Pint — The owners of Dominion Pint, the new restaurant from the team behind the District’s Meridian Pint and Brookland Pint, have signed a lease for their Northern Virginia establishment. The restaurant is scheduled to open in December at 6035 Wilson Blvd. in Dominion Hills. [PoPville]
VHC Employee Earns ‘4 Under 40’ Award — Virginia Hospital Center’s Taryn Overman, MSN, RN, CEN, has received this year’s “4 Under 40” Emerging Leader Award from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Overman is recognized for going beyond her management responsibilities to help her community, such as during a collaboration with A-Span in which two tons of cereal was collected, and in directing a program that helped train community members in hands-only CPR.
Man Struck, Killed by Blue Line Train — A man was struck and killed by a train at the Arlington Cemetery Metro station last night. Video appears to show that the man was intentionally on the tracks at the time he was struck, according to Metro. [Washington Post, WUSA 9]
Flickr pool photo by Jennifer Presser
Roxanne Edwards, vice president of the Transgender Education Association of Greater Washington (TEAGW), will be hosting the discussion starting at 7 p.m., according to Nicholas Englund, the Arlington Mill Senior Center director. The event is free and open to the public.
Topics of conversation will include transgender community concerns and how to be an LGBT ally, including vocabulary, etiquette, and additional resources. A question and answer session will be part of the discussion.
The event is part of the AGLA speaker series, according to an online event posting. AGLA — the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance — is a “nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit open to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) people and straight allies.”
ACPD Urges Vigilance at Malls, On Metro — “As the Holiday Season approaches, residents and visitors of Arlington County are asked to help protect their community by reporting suspicious activity to police for investigation. There are no known threats to Arlington County, however, the public is encouraged to remain vigilant, particularly in areas where large crowds of people typically gather such as shopping centers, restaurant districts, religious services, and public transportation hubs to name a few.” [Arlington County]
Thanksgiving Safety Tips — The Arlington County Fire Department is again sharing Thanksgiving cooking safety tips, especially for those using a turkey fryer. Meanwhile, the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services is reminding residents to avoid pouring “FOG” — fats, oils and grease — down the drain as it can resulte in pipe clogs. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
AHC Hosts Thanksgiving Meal for Residents — Earlier this week, local affordable housing provider AHC hosted Thanksgiving celebrations at six community centers. Per a press release, “AHC staff teamed up with dozens of volunteers to cook more than 30 turkeys, prepare side dishes, and help decorate community spaces for hundreds of residents to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast together.” [AHC Inc.]
Arlington an ‘All-Star’ for LGBTQ Protections — “Arlington County has again been named one of 41 American ‘All-Star Cities’ for its high standards of inclusiveness and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. Arlington scored 93 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI).” [Arlington County]
Turkey Trot 5K Road Closures — This year’s 12th annual Arlington Turkey Trot 5K will take place tomorrow (Thanksgiving) morning. A number of streets in the Lyon Park, Penrose and Ashton Heights neighborhoods will be closed between 7-10 a.m. as a result. [Arlington County]
Rosslyn Repositions Itself — “Once a hub for government agencies and 9-to-5 commuters, Rosslyn has transformed into a live-work-play destination for millennials. Media companies, consulting firms and financial services have set up shop in the submarket’s Class-A office buildings, drawn to amenities like fitness centers, games, roof decks and outdoor spaces.” [Bisnow]
Belmont TV Closing — Belmont TV, located at 4723 King Street on the Arlington-Alexandria border, is planning to close its doors at the end of the month, after about 75 years in business. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Having Trouble Hiring Bus Drivers — “The strong local economy is creating some challenges for Arlington Public Schools’ efforts to fill out its bus-driver and bus-assistant ranks. There are still ‘nine routes that don’t have permanent drivers,’ said John Chadwick, the school system’s assistant superintendent for transportation, at the Oct. 19 School Board meeting.” [InsideNova]
Northam, Roem Speak at Freddie’s — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and House of Delegates candidate Danica Roem spoke last night at an LGBT-focused campaign event at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City. Also attending the event were state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Del. Mark Levine and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. [Washington Blade]
History of the Pentagon Cable Crossing — A cable crossing, marked with large signs along the banks of the Potomac River, dates back to the construction of the Pentagon in early 1940s. [Atlas Obscura]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
A cigarette reportedly sparked a fire that has closed the patio at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City.
The fire was reported last night around 10:30 p.m. The fire department quickly arrived on scene and extinguished the flames, which scorched parts of the patio and its awning, owner Freddie Lutz told ARLnow.com.
Patrons were evacuated during the fire and no injuries were reported.
The bar, located at 555 23rd Street S., expects to open as usual at 4 p.m. today, though the patio will remain closed indefinitely, pending repairs, Lutz said.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 5, 2017
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) earlier this month proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Virginia. The bill, SB 1269, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, much like a traffic ticket. Another bill introduced by State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D), SB 908, would have had similar effects.
Though the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee did not approve the bills yesterday, it did promise more study on marijuana decriminalization, according to Ebbin’s office.
State lawmakers didn’t set aside every marijuana-related bill, however. The committee overwhelmingly advanced another bill, SB 1091, by a vote of 14-1. If enacted into law, that bill would make it so adults convicted of simple possession of marijuana wouldn’t automatically lose their driver’s license for six months, as is the current law.
“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”
A Senate committee also advanced two bills having to do with LGBT equality yesterday. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee gave its blessing to two bills, SB 783 and SB 822, “with strong, bipartisan support,” according to a press release from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.
The bills, introduced by Ebbin and Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), respectively, address nondiscrimination in public employment and target anti-LGBT practices in public housing.
CEB Being Acquired — Arlington-based CEB Inc., one of the county’s biggest private employers, is being acquired by Connecticut-based Gartner in a $2.6 billion cash-and-stock deal. CEB is set to anchor one of the under-construction Central Place towers in Rosslyn once it is completed. [Reuters, Gartner]
Fisette Still Mulling Reelection Run — Jay Fisette, who is serving as Arlington County Board Chair for 2017, has not yet decided whether he’ll run for another four-year term. Fisette says he’ll make a decision in February, the Washington Post’s Patricia Sullivan reports. [Twitter]
What County Board Members Did for New Year’s — With the County Board’s traditional New Year’s Day organizational meeting moved to Jan. 3, what did County Board members do on Jan. 1 instead? Nothing too interesting, it turns out. [Falls Church News-Press]
Obama’s Military Farewell Ceremony — It tied up some traffic in Arlington, but yesterday afternoon the country’s armed forces bid farewell to President Obama and Vice President Biden on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The event went well, minus one Army honor guard member fainting during the ceremony. [NBC News, Daily Mail]
Couple Married After 20 Years Together — An Arlington couple that first met 20 years ago in a D.C. nightclub finally tied the knot over the summer. Bob Kenney, a real estate agent, and Mark Treadaway, an airport executive, were wed in the backyard of their Woodmont home in front of 75 guests. [Arlington Magazine]
Nearby: Alexandria Flips Out Over Taco Bell — Residents in the West End of Alexandria are really worried about a proposed Taco Bell. In letters to the city’s planning commission, residents decried the potential for “late night riff raff,” “the devastating effects of an accident,” and “lowered home values.” One resident also relayed her personal experience of going to a Taco Bell that had run out of forks. There are four Taco Bells in Arlington County, including one on the Alexandria border and another in the Pentagon. [Washington Business Journal, City of Alexandria]
Va. Legislator Proposes N.C. Style Bathroom Bill — Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) has proposed a “bathroom bill” similar to the controversial bill that because law in North Carolina. The bill would restrict transgender individuals from using certain bathrooms and would require school principals to “notify all parents if a student at their children’s school asks to be treated as a member of the opposite sex.” [Washington Post]
Updated at 12:45 p.m. — The Arlington County Human Rights Commission contacted Crabb and Johnson minutes ago about their appeal, informing them that reasonable grounds do exist to support allegations of discrimination based on gender. The written decision notes that the “no long dresses” policy is not specific and there are “at least twenty-seven images” on the daycare’s website of girls wearing dresses, including some of similar lengths to the boy’s dress. The commission notes that the boy is the only child who has been disciplined over the policy and that Crabb and Johnson received no warnings or reminders about their son’s dress length. The commission says evidence indicates the boy was expelled as retaliation for his parents speaking up about their child’s dress being removed. The Arlington County Human Rights Commission’s Executive Director has been authorized to initiate “conciliation efforts” between the parties.
Earlier: An Arlington couple is accusing a local daycare of discrimination, saying their young son was kicked out for wearing a dress.
Kristen Johnson and Robin Crabb say their son had been wearing a dress to his daycare, the Arlington Children’s Center near Rosslyn, for several weeks when trouble suddenly broke out in November 2015. Arlington Children’s Center has not responded to ARLnow’s multiple requests for comment, but Johnson and Crabb shared their recollection of the events.
Johnson says last year she went to pick up her then-three-year-old son from daycare when she noticed he was not wearing his dress — which was in the style of Elsa’s dress in the animated movie “Frozen” — over his pants and shirt, as he had been when he was dropped off that morning. When her son said the dress had been taken off of him, Johnson questioned daycare employees about why that had happened.
At first she thought perhaps her son had gotten the dress dirty and staff therefore had to remove it. But staff told Johnson that the daycare center’s owner saw the boy wearing the dress and instructed staff to take it off.
“A teacher said [the owner] was irate when she saw my son wearing a dress,” Johnson says. “My son was essentially kicked out because he was wearing dress.”
She points out that although the boy had been wearing a shirt and pants under the dress because it was cold outside, the dress reportedly was taken off of him in front of the other children at the daycare.
“I said no one should take my son’s clothes off until they talk to my husband or myself first,” Johnson says.
An employee reportedly returned the dress to Johnson in a plastic bag but did not provide any additional information. Johnson requested to speak with the owner and staff said the owner would call her. Johnson says although she became angry at the lack of answers to her repeated questions about why the dress had been removed, she realized she wasn’t making progress and left the daycare without becoming disruptive.
Johnson says once she got home she called the daycare and spoke with the director. She recalls that the director also did not answer questions about the dress removal and told Johnson she would have to speak with the daycare’s owner. Johnson admits becoming frustrated at that point and hanging up on the director. “It was not my best moment, but I did it,” she says.
She received a call from the owner shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly became “animated,” according to Johnson and her husband, Crabb, who joined the call when Johnson grew agitated. The couple repeatedly asked the owner if she instructed staff to remove the dress just because it was on a boy. The owner repeatedly stated that the center had a policy against long dresses for safety reasons. But Crabb believes the owner’s animated response to the questions indicates otherwise.
“If somebody violates a policy against long dresses, you don’t have an emotional reaction like that. You just say they’re not allowed to,” he says.
After more discussion about the long dress policy, the owner reportedly told the couple not to bring their son to the daycare again or employees would call police. The owner told the couple that the boy was expelled because of Johnson’s interactions with staff after discovering the dress had been removed.
Johnson says the expulsion is unjustified on those grounds because she was not inappropriate or aggressive with anyone, other than hanging up on the one employee. She says parents and staff who witnessed her at the daycare center on the day of the dress removal have attested to her appropriate behavior during the incident.
Although the daycare does indeed have a “no long dresses” rule, Crabb and Johnson say, they had never been warned that their son was violating the policy prior to this incident. Additionally, they say that the vague rule does not even state exactly where on a child’s body dresses are allowed to reach or what constitutes a violation.
The boy received the dress as a hand-me-down gift from one of the girls at the daycare. She reportedly had worn the dress at the center on more than one occasion without any repercussions. In fact, the girl was wearing the dress in a photo featured on the daycare’s website (above left).
Crabb and Johnson point out that the dress was longer on the girl than it was on their son; it reached nearly to the girl’s ankles but only mid-calf on the boy (above right). They say other girls also wore dresses longer than their son’s without reprimand, as seen in another photo from the center’s website (below right).
Crabb and Johnson are certain their son was discriminated against for wearing non-gender conforming clothing and took their case to the Arlington County Human Rights Commission earlier this year. The commission investigated the case but did not rule in Crabb and Johnson’s favor.
A spokesperson for the Arlington County Office of Human Rights told ARLnow that all matters it investigates are confidential and it will not discuss them with anyone except the parties directly involved.
The commission’s ruling in the discrimination case was based on a number of factors, according to its final written report. One factor is that the parents did not inform the daycare that their son might have a “gender identity issue.” The commission also decided the dress in question was not related to his gender identity because it is a “costume dress,” and it cited insufficient evidence that the boy wore dresses outside of daycare.
Johnson says she was never asked to provide such evidence or she would have submitted previously-taken photos of the boy wearing this and other dresses while at home and in public. The parents also do not believe they should have had to provide advance notification that their son may or may not identify with a gender other than what he was biologically assigned. Those are two of the points that prompted the couple to recently appeal the commission’s decision.
Because their son is so young — now four — Crabb and Johnson aren’t sure if he is yet expressing gender identity, but they want to support him regardless of whether he identifies as a male or female. Currently their son sometimes refers to himself as a boy and sometimes as a girl, Johnson explains.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, he’s four. But after this he had shame about wearing a dress, he would talk about it,” she says. “I think that’s insane that in this progressive area a daycare could do that to a child.”
She notes that part of the reason she chose to send her son to Arlington Children’s Center is its reputation and affiliation with the county; county workers receive subsidized child care at the center as an employee benefit. Johnson said that makes it even more surprising to her that the daycare handled the incident as it did.
Johnson says her son asked questions about why he couldn’t return to his daycare and felt such shame at being expelled that he didn’t wear a dress when he started attending a new daycare last year. That changed after about a month when the new daycare’s director told him he could wear a dress if he wishes.
“That’s all he needed, to know that it was okay,” Johnson says. “He had been empowered to wear it. And other kids in the class said they liked the dress.”
The couple is currently awaiting the Human Rights Commission’s decision regarding their appeal. They were told that if the commission reverses its original decision, then both sides will take part in a mediation to reach an amenable course of action. Crabb says he’s not quite sure if that would involve requiring the daycare to provide better staff training about gender identity or some other resolution.
“I don’t know what would satisfy us to make sure that other kids — and there will be other kids — aren’t subjected to the same thing,” he says.
Meanwhile, the couple wants to get the word out to other parents about the issue while continuing to support their son no matter what he chooses to wear.
“It makes me so happy that he doesn’t care what other people think,” Crabb says. “Occasionally we hear someone ask why he is wearing a dress and he doesn’t care.”
“There’s such a high rate of suicide for transgender kids,” Johnson says. “I know the possible harms [the daycare’s] actions could have done to our son. That’s why we are so passionate about having more education and having other members of the community know this happened. They need to know they have recourse to fight it because it’s not okay. These children don’t have anyone standing up for them except their parents.”
County Manager on Buck Property — County staff have “made no recommendations for any specific function” at the to-be-acquired Buck property near Washington-Lee High School, the county said in a press release this morning. Nearby residents have launched a petition against a proposal to use the property for school bus operations. Said Arlington County Manager Mark Schwarz: “Our ability to provide essential services is only as good as the facilities we have to support them. As our population continues to grow, our services will either deteriorate or cost the taxpayer more without adequate support facilities.” [Arlington County]
Fundraiser for Employee Struck By SUV — A fundraiser for a Mad Rose Tavern employee run over by an SUV raised more than $5,000 last night, the restaurant’s manager said on Facebook. Victoria Gonzalez, 34, is still in the hospital, preparing to begin rehabilitation. The next court appearance for the DUI suspect in the case is scheduled for Nov. 17. [WJLA]
Bowl’d to Introduce Breakfast — Healthy fast casual eatery Bowl’d (1028 N. Garfield Street) in Clarendon is introducing weekend breakfast service from 9 a.m. to noon, starting this Saturday. Bowl’d founder Allen Reed says the restaurant will be “giving away breakfast tacos, greek yogurt bowls and hot breakfast bowls to the first 150 people who come through our doors this weekend.”
Talento to Bring New Perspective to School Board — Democrat Tannia Talento, who’s running unopposed for Arlington School Board, says she wants to bring “the perspective of the working parent” to the Board. Another unique perspective: Talento said economic and family issues prevented her from getting a college degree. Talento says her priorities on the Board will be dealing with the growing student population, improving access to mental health services and narrowing the achievement gap. [InsideNova]
Arlington Lauded for LGBTQ Protections — “Arlington has been named one of 37 American ‘All-Star Cities‘ acclaimed for their high standard of inclusiveness toward their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities.” [Arlington County]
Innovative Companies in Crystal City — Business publication Bisnow says the following are “five disruptive companies establishing Crystal City as [a] nexus of innovation:” Lyft, TMSOFT, OrcaVue, Polynox Solutions and FourStay. [Bisnow]
Update at 1:20 p.m. — The missing boy was found around 1 p.m., according to police. He was located on the roof of Williamsburg Middle School.
Earlier: Arlington County Police are calling in resources from Virginia State Police to help search for a missing 12-year-old boy.
Police say Eli Check, 12, was last seen early this morning at his home on the 3400 block of N. Emerson Street, near Williamsburg Middle School in the Rock Spring neighborhood.
Check, who is transgender and identifies as male, was last seen dying his hair black, according to police.
“We’re worried about his safety,” said ACPD spokesman Capt. Bruce Benson.
At least one K-9 unit is involved in the search of the neighborhood around the boy’s home, Benson confirmed. Police are also asking for the public’s help.
From a press release issued shortly after noon today:
The Arlington County Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating a 12 year old boy. Eli Check of Arlington, was last seen at his home in the 3400 block of N. Emerson St. at 2 a.m. on Monday, October 24, 2016.
Eli was last seen in his home dying his hair black. He is white, weighing 85 lbs. and is 5’0″ tall. He may be wearing light colored blue jeans with multiple, multi colored patches on the legs.
Eli is transgender, female to male, and it is possible he may present as a female. Eli’s legal name is Eliana Check.
Anyone who has information about Eli is asked to call the Arlington County Police Department immediately at 703-558-2222.
Gun Store Has New Owner — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory has reportedly been sold to one of its employees. Shawn Poulin, the store’s manager, says he is now also its majority owner. The previous owner, Dennis Pratte, at one point claimed that the store was actually owned by his 16-year-old daughter. Poulin says the store is profitable and he plans to expand it to a second floor, “with a showroom to feature rifles, tactical gear and an expanded clothing line.” [Washington Post]
New Bishop for Arlington — Updated at 9:25 a.m. — The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is getting a new bishop. Bishop Michael Burbidge, 59, is transferring to Arlington from Raleigh, N.C. Burbridge is scheduled to be installed as bishop on Dec. 6, replacing current bishop Paul Loverde, 76. Some local Catholics have been pushing for a new bishop who will take the diocese in a different direction than Loverde, a traditionalist who decried the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. Burbridge was critical of North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom” law, which was seen as anti-LGBT, though he was also against an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte that HB2 was intended to undo. [Fox 5, InsideNova]
The Evolution of Ballston — GGW takes a look at the past, present and future of Ballston. The article notes that Ballston was once the end of the Orange Line and that ridership at the station fell in the 1980s when the line was extended to Vienna. [Greater Greater Washington]
Immigrant Women to Protest at DCA — Immigrant women and labor union allies are planning a protest at Reagan National Airport today. They’ll be protesting the treatment of immigrant women who work at the airport, claiming poor working conditions for immigrant mothers in particular. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
Virginia tourism officials have started a new marketing push to bring more LGBT travelers to the Commonwealth.
Virginia Tourism Corp. yesterday announced it has a new LGBT travel website, which notes that “Virginia is for all Lovers.”
Visitors to the website can find LGBT-friendly hotels, restaurants, shops, wineries, breweries and attractions. The site also has a “Virginia is for Lovers Pride Shop” with hats, pins and T-shirts for sale.
“Virginia is proud to be an open and welcoming destination for every visitor attracted by our scenic mountains and beaches, as well as our world-renowned restaurants, wineries and breweries,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. “I am pleased the Virginia Tourism Corporation has created this landing page to connect travelers with inclusive, LGBT-friendly establishments across the Commonwealth.”
The website came out of recommendations from the LGBT Tourism Task Force, which McAuliffe put together last year.
Members of the LGBT community make up about 5 percent of Virginia tourists, according to Virginia Tourism Corp. They also take longer trips to Virginia and spend more money in the Commonwealth than all other visitors there, the tourism authority noted.
“A vacation in Virginia is all about doing the things you love to do with the ones that you love, and we are thrilled to offer this new resource for the LGBT community, their friends, and their families, to help them plan the perfect vacation in Virginia,” Rita McClenny, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corp., said in a statement.
Image via Virginia Tourism Corp.
Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
By: Delegate Alfonso Lopez
Over the past several years, Democrats have won every Virginia statewide elected office.
In presidential elections, the Commonwealth has become a bellwether state. The competitive nature of Virginia’s statewide political campaigns is, however, largely absent in the Virginia House of Delegates, where, with 66 Republicans and 34 Democratic legislators, political gerrymandering has created a body that is anything but representative of the Commonwealth.
The consequences of a House that is unrepresentative of the Commonwealth as a whole is ideologically-driven legislation that is harmful to Virginia.
Just this week, the House passed HB773 with the Orwellian title – “The Government Nondiscrimination Act.” This bill actually does just the opposite. It allows non-government entities to discriminate against others based upon that entity’s religious beliefs as they relate to same-sex marriage, the transgender community, and even sex outside of marriage.
Under this bill, private companies, universities, and non-profits could refuse to work with individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity without any repercussions to state contracts, funding, accreditation, or licensure. Simply put, the state would not be allowed to stop discrimination.
The bill passed on a 56-41 vote.
You read that correctly. In 2016, a sizable House majority still wants to embrace and enshrine discrimination in the Code of Virginia.
It is the will of the House to require the Commonwealth to continue providing contracts, tax exemptions and state funding to support discrimination. Accredited private universities could deny admission or degrees to Virginians based on their sexual orientation.
While Governor McAuliffe has issued an executive order banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, he would become powerless to prevent the Commonwealth from supporting entities that discriminate on this basis in Virginia.
This is not the message we should be sending as a Commonwealth. Instead of protecting Virginians from discrimination, their state would be required to support it.
It appears that the real reason supporters pushed this bill through the House is so that social conservatives can send a message to their base during a Presidential election year and prior to the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries.
They think little of how this type of legislation makes Virginia appear unwelcoming and hostile to people and businesses who might be considering relocating here.
If we want to make sure that Virginia is open for business and to create a new Virginia economy less dependent on federal spending, do we really want to fall into the traps that other states have fallen into when they pursued similar legislation?
General Electric, Apple, Salesforce.com, Eli Lilly, Lyft, Twitter, WalMart, and AirBnB are examples of companies that have spoken out against similar bills in other states.
Last year, when Indiana considered similar legislation in the run up to the men’s basketball Final Four, the NCAA made it clear that they would not host another large-scale, lucrative tournament in the state as long as such legislation was on the books.
Oddly enough – despite numerous Democratic efforts to update Virginia law – it is not illegal in the Commonwealth to discriminate against gay and transgender people in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. But, under this bill, we will be doubling down on discrimination by forbidding the state from working to avoid such discrimination. Indeed, the state would be on record as supporting the heavy hand of discrimination.
George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790 was just 340 words but it is a telling refutation of the spirit of the House bill. Washington wrote:
“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support….May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths…“
Persecution under the guise of ‘religious liberty’ goes against our nation’s values. Our first President – a Virginian — got it right. We should not be creating a license to discriminate in Virginia.
Alfonso Lopez represents the 49th District (South Arlington and Eastern Fairfax) in the Virginia House of Delegates. He and his family are long-time residents of Arlington.