Virginians leading LGBT equality efforts to be recognized by Equality Virginia

gay-equalityOn Saturday, April 5, Equality Virginia will recognize the 2014 class of OUTstanding Virginians – those who represent  Virginia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community with distinction and who are committed to moving the lgbt community forward – at its 11th annual Commonwealth Dinner held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  The Commonwealth Dinner is Virginia’s largest gathering for the lgbt community and supporters.  This year will feature critically acclaimed actress and star of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Laverne Cox, as Keynote Speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jonathan Capehart as Emcee.  More information is available at www.equalityvirginia.org/dinner/.

“There are many Virginians working hard to move the commonwealth towards equality and fairness,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “Equality Virginia is pleased to recognize the 2014 class of OUTstanding Virginians for their innumerable contributions to their communities and for making Virginia a more welcoming place to call home.”

2014’s OUTstanding Virginians include:

Eboné Bell (Publisher, Alexandria) After coming out in college, Eboné Bell quickly immersed herself in lgbt causes. She is responsible for organizing many events and projects, including the annual Capital Queer Prom, hugely successful galas for Capital Pride, and the bi-monthly publication Tagg.

Donnie Conner (Psychotherapist, Richmond) Donnie Conner has made huge strides in addressing the mental health needs of Richmond’s gay community. A co-founder of Commonwealth Professional Services, he has used his credentials in marriage and family counseling to work with lgbt and HIV-positive clients, and has also been a pioneer in the counseling of gay youth coming out. He has received honors from the American Counseling Association and American Mental Health Counselor’s Association, among others.

Allen Groves (Dean, Charlottesville) As an openly gay man, Allen Groves has blazed a trail in several industries. A former partner at a large Atlanta law firm, he is currently the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at UVA where he is highly regarded and beloved by students gay and straight alike, and strives to uphold the inclusive values of the institution.

Greta Harris (Housing Advocate, Richmond) Drawing upon inspiration from her parents, grandparents, and extended family who were active in the Civil Rights movement, Greta Harris is passionate about affordable housing as a social justice issue and believes strongly in the power of community development. Despite initial trepidation, Greta came out in the early 90s, and her courage to be authentic and fair has earned her a strong network of allies. She currently serves as the President and CEO of the Richmond-based Better Housing Coalition.

Robert Roman (Business Owner, Hampton Roads) Co-owner of Decorum, a furniture store in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Robert Roman is an active and passionate member of his community. He is a part of the Civic League, the Ghent Business Association, and other neighborhood service groups, and served on Equality Virginia’s board for a time.

Jean Segner (Banker, Richmond) After moving to the Richmond area and beginning a career in finance, Jean Segner discovered the Central Virginia Business and Professional Guild, and through her involvement with the Guild she became active in political fundraising for LGBT-friendly candidates. She later became involved with Equality Virginia, serving first as a board member, then Interim Executive Director as well as chairing the committee for the Commonwealth Dinner from 2009 to 2011.

Dr. Walter Sheppe (Retired Biologist, Richmond) Dr. Walter Sheppe has been involved with the gay liberation movement since 1959, helping to set the stage for things to come. In 1974, as a member of the Gay Academic Union, he presented an Academic Gay Bill of Rights which focused on the rights of sexual minorities at colleges and universities, and later went on to help found the lgbt Union at the University of Akron where he taught.

Jeff Trammell (Public Service, Washington, DC) Jeff Trammell is a man of many milestones – the first openly lgbt chair of the board of trustees of a major US university, the first openly gay member of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors, and the first openly lgbt member of the board of trustees of the Association Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. He has also been involved in lgbt political activism, working with the Kerry and Gore campaigns to create comprehensive bases in the lgbt community.

Virginia Organizing (Statewide) Founded on the principle of dignity and respect for all, Virginia Organizing is a grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. The lgbt perspective is an integral part of the organization, and these concerns have been woven into the community’s plan for action.

Equality Virginia has recognized OUTstanding Virginians at its Commonwealth Dinner since 2009.

In addition to celebrating the OUTstanding Virginians, the Commonwealth Dinner will feature a keynote delivered by critically acclaimed actress Laverne Cox and will be emceed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart.   Tickets to the event are still available at http://equalityvirginia.org/dinner.

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