LGBTQ Equality

Erik Gutshall with VA Senator Adam Ebbin

June 8, 2016 – I don’t have any gay family members (that I know of). I have a pretty small family; so, that could be statistically valid. However, I did grow up in the military in a time when homophobia was rampant. My parents did not condone the homophobia in our broader community, but never really addressed it directly. Frankly, it was such a part of the community I lived in, even moving from town to town in a military family, that I never questioned it as a child. I regret to say that the most common playground insult we kids used was "Fag."

That all changed when I was in high school. I lived in Tampa near the Ray brothers. These were three hemophiliac boys who had contracted HIV from blood transfusions. The community was just awful to them, even burned their house down when a judge ruled they had to be allowed to go to school. I remember very distinctly feeling that the way they were being treated was just plain wrong, and by extension, the treatment of the gay community was based entirely on prejudice and fear. I could see that too many people were allowing their emotions to be controlled by fear – fear that they would catch AIDS, fear that gay men would prey on their children, fear that a gay man would grab you in the shower, and I began to understand that none of the facts supported these fears.

Wow, how far we, and I, have come! A few years ago, my then five-year-old daughter came to me and our Catholic, Bolivian nanny, Hilda, and announced that she would like to marry her best friend, another girl. She asked if girls can marry girls. After a good-natured laugh, Hilda began to explain to Marlena that no, girls can't marry girls, but I stopped her. Actually I said, by the time you grow up, Marlena, you will be able to marry another girl! As it happens, Bolivia had adopted marriage equality just days before this conversation. I showed Hilda on my smart phone. The look was priceless: part oh my God, and part really?

The wheels of change are both frustrating and miraculous. I am extraordinary grateful that my girls live in a time and place where whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation, I know that they will never have to hide from their family, friends, or neighbors, as I now realize, countless kids where I grew up must have done.

In this primary, I’m honored by the support of leading members of the Arlington LGBT community, including David Barkley, Zach Bowman, Rhonda Buckner, Kevin Ceckowski, Robert Christie, Bob Connelly, Charlie Conrad, Bruce Crane, Hon. Adam Ebbin, Hon. Jay Fisette, Cragg Hines, Bob Kenney, Kris McLaughlin, Bob Rosen, Mark Treadaway, Diane Ullius, Betsey Wildhack, Bob Witeck and Jeff Wingate. If you want to add your name to the list, please use the “CONTACT” button above.

While serving on the Arlington County Board, I will:

  • Support equality in all its forms and opposition to discrimination in all its forms.
  • Pledge to protect and expand Arlington's long-standing commitment to inclusiveness and to respecting the myriad of differences among us - while recognizing that we all have far more in common than we have differences.
  • Support employment non-discrimination policies statewide and nationally.
  • Protect Arlington's policies prohibiting discrimination in hiring and employment for County and School employees, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity.