“It is an honor to shine a light on the great work companies are doing to keep Virginia moving forward,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia adding, “We need only to look just south of Virginia’s border to see the chaos and disruption that comes when a state doesn’t treat all its citizens and visitors fairly.” Just this week the NCAA and ACC pulled championship events out of North Carolina because of HB2—legislation barring transgender people from using government building restrooms in accordance with their gender identities.”
Wednesday’s luncheon was presented by Altria. The Richmond based company has been a leader in creating a workplace that is welcoming and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Representing Altria was Senior Manager of Corporate Citizenship, Kathryn Fessler who affirmed the need for fair corporate policies, “We’re continually working to build a culture at Altria where all of our employees know we are included, heard and challenged to contribute fully – including those of us who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Fessler.
Equality Virginia was honored to have Attorney General Mark Herring attend as well. Highlighting the work of Virginia business with inclusive policies, the Attorney General told attendees, “Discrimination is wrong, it’s illegal, and as more states are realizing, it’s bad for business. In many ways, the business community has been a driving force for LGBT equality and it’s an honor to recognize some of the Virginia businesses that are helping lead the way. I’m so proud of the strides that Virginia continues to make to show the world that this is an open and welcoming place to live, learn, and work without fear of discrimination.”
The luncheon featured experts who discussed the role LGBT employee and customer inclusive policies play in keeping Virginia a competitive place to do business and travel. “More and more each day, America’s economy is made stronger by the contributions of the people we value – and not the ones we discard. And that has made all the difference for LGBT families, workers, business owners, taxpayers, investors and entrepreneurs,” said Bob Witeck, President, Witeck Communications, a Washington D.C. based consulting firm.
“Tourism is a $23 billion dollar industry in Virginia and represents thousands of business owners, communities and over 223,100 jobs,” said Wirt Confroy, Director of Business Development for Virginia Tourism Corporation. “The state’s efforts to engage LGBT visitors and match them with Virginia’s most welcoming and authentic experiences is a great business decision, and one that will increase the Commonwealth’s bottom line.”
The state of Virginia has no statewide legislation protecting employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Companies that have policies in place to protect LGBT employees are leading Virginia forward. The Human Rights Campaign’s Cathryn Oakley said, “Businesses know that the only way for our economy to work is to include the hard work and skills of every person, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a critical conversation about the increasingly visible role the business community is playing in letting policymakers know that equality is both morally right and good for the bottom line.”