Supervisors voted to change its rules of order Tuesday and create Love Loudoun Month in July instead of adopt a controversial resolution to recognize June as LGBT Pride Month.
An earlier draft of the change required a majority vote by supervisors before adding a resolution to the agenda, but the rules change was modified to require the chairman and vice chairman, who set board agendas, to both agree to put a resolution on the board’s agenda—effectively giving two supervisors veto power over resolutions.
“I do think that ceremonial resolutions are called ceremonial resolutions for a reason,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “What’s important to me is that people’s voices are heard, and we don’t have to do that through resolutions.” The board generally approves several resolutions each month, usually unanimously and without debate.
Instead, Randall suggested supervisors use their designated board comment period to make their constituent’s voices heard if necessary, and that future agendas change to move the board comment period earlier in the evening. Currently, supervisors make their comments and disclosures at the end of the meetings, often late at night and after all but a handful of staff have left the board room.
“If you want to do something like celebrate a community or something like that, you do it in your board comments instead of a resolution,” Randall said.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) agreed that resolutions are not the vehicle for conversations like the board’s recent debates over gun violence awareness and LGBT Pride Month.
“I think perhaps the chair and vice chair have a fairly good idea of what the intent of this is, and the two of them would be able to screen out resolutions that would have the type of problems that we’ve had, particularly if it’s the two of them deciding together,” Letourneau said.
The change to the board’s rules of order specifies that “all Resolutions shall be focused on honoring exceptional acts of County residents or staff, celebrating community service of Loudoun’s residents and groups, remembering history, or promoting awareness of issues directly relating to County operations.”
Both the rules change and Love Loudoun Month were championed by Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run).
“My staff does not have the capability to deal with hundreds and hundreds of emails about subjects outside our purview,” Meyer said.
Randall (D-At Large) offered the amendment removing the need for a majority vote of the board to include a resolution on the agenda, and board Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) offered an amendment to require the chairman and vice chairman agree to put any resolutions on the agenda.
The rules change was adopted 8-1, with Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) opposed. She had introduced the resolution to recognize June as LGBT Pride Month.
The Love Loudoun Month resolution says Loudoun County “stands in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack,” that “Loudoun County’s diversity helps make the County one of the best places to live, work and play in America,” and that “Loudoun County’s diversity is so rich we could honor a different group of extraordinary citizens every day.”
The resolution followed impassioned speeches from supporters and opponents of Umstattd’s resolution in public comment to the board. Many reiterated arguments that the resolution divides Loudouners and the board and distracts the board from its duties.
Ahead of the board’s vote, Virginia Sen. Richard H. Black (R-13) argued that, considering homosexuals’ higher than average income and disposable income, they do not face discrimination. He also asked that Christianity not be used to argue for LGBT Pride Month.
“While Christianity certainly is for forgiveness, I don’t think some of the practices are approved by Holy Scripture,” Black said.
Andrew Bambrick, a sophomore at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, said the motion was unnecessary.
“The LGBT community has already achieved their stated goal: equality before the law,” Bambrick said, referencing a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges, requiring states recognize same-sex marriages.
Others spoke in favor of the resolution, some from very personal experience. Rising Dominion High School senior Shane Crow said he had seen LGBT students face discrimination in school.
“I heard that LGBT is already considered equal in the law,” Crow said. “Well, even if that is the case, it is very hard to feel or recognize that we are equal under the law if we are not treated equally in society itself.”
Amy Cannava, co-chairman of the National Association of School Psychologist’s LGBTQI2-S Committee, said after the Obergefell decision, many students were not celebrating.
“Instead, students reminded me how ostracized they felt to be recognized by a nation, but not supported by their own parents,” Cannava said.
“We didn’t just want marriage,” said Brian Reach, president and executive director of NOVA Pride. “We wanted dignity and equality.” He pointed out that LGBT Pride Month is already recognized in the counties of Fairfax and Arlington and cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, Alexandria, and the Town of Herndon, as well as by the state.
Supervisors also traded personal stories. Randall told the board about her niece, who came out at 24 years old.
“She said, ‘I’ve tried not to be gay my whole life. I don’t want to be gay… I would give anything if I were not gay,’ and she apologized and she said, ‘I’m sorry for being gay,'” Randall said. “…I can’t imagine going through my whole life being so scared to say it even to your loving family because of how you think they might react.”
Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) said she has a homosexual sibling and a homosexual cousin, who are dear to her, but opposed the LGBT Pride Month resolution.
“We cannot legislate hatred out of someone’s heart,” Volpe said. “The way you look, where you came from, your educational background, your ethnicity or sexual orientation, any of that. The only thing we can do is pray that God changes people’s hearts and minds.”
Ultimately, Love Loudoun Month was substituted for the LGBT Pride Month resolution. It passed 5-4, with Randall, Umstattd, Volpe, and Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) opposed.
Following the vote, Randall rebuked the Loudoun County Republican and Democratic committees.
“We have a combined board,” Randall said. “Not only do we have to work together, we should work together for the good of the county… Yes, I am chair, but Mr. Buona is vice chair, but to be honest—and let’s just shock the whole county—we agree on about 85 percent of everything.”
She disputed the notion that debates like those over Gun Violence Awareness Day and LGBT Pride Month divide the board.
“This is what a working body that doesn’t always agree, but knows how to disagree without being disagreeable, looks like,” Randall said. “It means you make compromises, it means you bend.”