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Del. Ken Plum: Virginia is for Loving

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

It is somewhat ironic that Loving Day in Virginia, celebrated annually on June 12, has nothing to do with the famous “Virginia is for Lovers” public relations slogan but has much to do about ending a period in history when Virginia was less than loving. Loving Day in Virginia relates to an interracial couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, who were married in the District of Columbia and tried to live near where they grew up in Virginia. They were found guilty of violating state law and banished from their home state for twenty-five years.

The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in Virginia prohibited marriage between persons classified as white and people classified as colored. Although Mildred and Richard were residents of Caroline County, they went to the District of Columbia to get married to get around this anti-miscegenation law. They returned to live in their home but were arrested because Virginia law did not recognize the D.C. marriage, and furthermore it was also against the law to go outside the state to be married and return as an interracial couple.

The laws under which the Lovings were convicted were eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. One of their lawyers with whom I was later to serve in the House of Delegates, Bernard “Bernie” Cohen, told the Justices that Richard Loving had sent a message to them. “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court invalidated the Virginia law and all other state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The case (Loving v Virginia) decided in 1967 is considered a landmark civil rights case that helped to dismantle Jim Crow laws and establish a precedent that was cited in 2015 to invalidate laws prohibiting same-sex marriages.

It is important to recognize Loving Day for the courageous action on the part of Mildred and Richard Loving to allow their case to go forward with the help of the ACLU to challenge an unjust law. Some of our greatest gains in civil rights have come through the courts as legislatures have too many times lacked the political will to do what is right when it might not be popular with some people. It can also be chilling to recognize that this step forward took place just over fifty years ago. We need to study our history and carefully review our current political and societal mores to ensure that such discrimination is not continuing today. Overcoming discrimination and racial biases are not topics of the past but continue to today. We need to support those like the Lovings who stepped up to undo an injustice.

Some long for the “good ole days.” My reading of history suggests that better days are ahead of us. A divided and discriminatory society of the past is not to be celebrated. Virginia needs to be a Commonwealth of lovers of justice, equality and peace.

File photo

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Inaugural Reston Pride Festival Attracts More than 1,000 Attendees

Roughly 1,200 people attended Saturday’s inaugural Reston Pride Festival at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston.

The Rev. Debra Haffner, a minister at UUCR, pushed to put together the event after she moved to Reston two years ago and identified what she calls a void in programming for and about the local LGBTQ population.

“I asked where are the gay people in Reston. My congregants told me there were none,” Haffner told Reston Now. “I knew that wasn’t true.”

The event was cosponsored by more than 21 local organizations and included a performance by Reston Community Players and remarks by local elected officials, including state Del. Ken Plum.  Many of the attendees were from South Lakes High School and Herndon High School, organizers said.

Haffner’s son, Greg Tartaglione, a drag performer, was the emcee — a role that Haffner said taught event-goers “about the role a drag queen can play in creating community.”

Plans are in the works to continue the festival next year, likely at a larger venue like Reston Town Center or Lake Anne Plaza. Haffner said the community needs to do more to celebrate the local LGBTQ community.

“For the last year, UCR has had a rainbow flag in front of our church. We’re only the freestanding rainbow flag in Reston. We need as a community to do much more and stand up and support and celebrate the LGBTQ community,” she said.

Photos by Kim-Marie Mullen and Debra Haffner

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Friday Morning Notes

Silver Line extension to Dulles awaits test results — “The Silver Line extension project to Dulles International Airport is now waiting on test results that could determine whether it opens on time. Project director Charles Stark told the Dulles Corridor Advisory Committee… that three problems with concrete wall panels at five stations under construction had already been identified before news of a whistleblower lawsuit broke.” [WTOP]

A local kid’s message for President Trump — Disturbed by the murders of Buckley Kuhn Fricker and Scott Fricker late last year, 10-year-old Anya Moon pens a letter to President Donald Trump about gun violence. [CNN]

For Normandy — Five ensembles by current and former Herndon High School musicians will be featured in this family-friendly concert on Sunday. All proceeds will help the school’s band travel to Normandy to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day. [Herndon High School]

Registration for fall soccer is now open — The Great Falls-Reston Soccer Club is accepting application starting today for a variety of programs.  [Great Falls Reston Soccer Club]

Reston Pride Festival set for tomorrow — As pride month begins, the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston is hosting Reston’s first-ever Pride Festival on Sunday. The event includes 10 performances, remarks by local politicians, exhibits, food, and music. [Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston]

Photo by Ruth Sievers

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First-Ever Reston Pride Festival to Celebrate Local LGBTQ Community

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston is sponsoring the first-ever Reston Pride Festival on June 2 from 2-6 p.m.

The family-friendly, alcohol-free event aims to support and celebrate Reston’s LGBTQ community, said the Rev. Debra Haffner, a minister at UUCR.

Her son, Greg Tartaglione, will emcee and perform as Mama Celeste, a drag performance artist, at the festival. Mama Celeste will also host Oakland’s first drag festival this month.

As someone new to Reston, I was surprised to discover that despite Reston’s founding commitment to diversity and inclusion, there had never been a Pride festival in Reston. I am delighted by the enthusiastic response and support we are receiving for Reston Pride, often from groups and organizations that have never spoken out before on LGBTQ issues,” Haffner said.

The festival, which takes place at UUCR, includes more than 10 performers, presentations by area political and faith leaders, exhibits, booths, food, and music.

Reston Community Players will perform “Rock the Ages and “Hairspray” at the festival. State Del. Ken Plum and state Sen. Janet Howell will speak alongside Lisa Merkel, the mayor of the Town of Herndon.

Eighteen cosponsors are supporting the event, including six churches and synagogues,  Cornerstones and the YMCA.

To volunteer, email [email protected]. The complete program is available online.

Photo via Myers Public Relations

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LGBTQ Advocacy Organization Reviews Policies of Reston-based Companies

Each year, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation assesses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer inclusion in major companies and law firms across the country.

In this year’s Corporate Equality Index, a tool used for 15 years, the organization found a record number of companies are “advancing vital policies” to protect LGBTQ workers around the world, including several in Reston. The foundation is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and lobbying organization.

In a new record, 609 businesses received the top score of 100, up by 18 percent over last year. 947 businesses and firms were rated during the assessment. In Virginia, the average score of the 32 companies ranked was 87 percent. 19 received 100 points, 21 received 90 points and above, and 26 received 80 points and above.

The following companies in Reston were rated:

Each firm was rated across the following categories, according to the release:

  • Non-discrimination policies
  • Employment benefits
  • Demonstrated organizational competency and accountability around LGBTQ diversity and inclusion
  • Public commitment to LGBTQ equality
  • Responsible citizenship

For the complete assessment, visit the foundation’s website.

Photo via the Human Rights Campaign Foundation

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