As we ring in 2015 and look forward, it's time to look at the large milestones that took place over the past year.
January: Two bills, HB 417 and HB562, were sent to the General Assembly to ban discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity in employment. Bills to end the ban on same-sex marriage were also sent to the General Assembly. Bill SB 336, sponsored by Sen. Janet Howard (D-32) which would allow second parent adoption, headed to the General Assembly with bi-partisan support.
February: Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage appeared in court. Michael Sam, a senior at University of Missouri who was preparing to enter the NFL draft, came out as the first openly-gay sports player. Del. Mark . Sickles, D-Alexandria, became the state's second openly gay legislator. Virginia's ruling on same-sex marriages was appealed.
March: The amendments for Virginia bills SB 330 and HB 212 mirror Arizona's religious freedom bills, which state-sanctioned discrimination. Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor on Game of Thrones, comes out gay in an interview. Virginia ranks No. 11 for known hate groups in Southern Poverty Law Center's spring 2014 magazine. A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University released a poll that showed that support for same-sex marriage sat at 50 percent, no change from 2013.
April: The Human Rights Campaign released the 2014 Corporate Equality Index (CEI); Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., Capital One Financial Corp., Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac), Hilton Worldwide Inc., and Volkswagen Group of America Inc. all scored 100 percent while Richmond-based companies McGuireWoods LLP and Williams Mullen PC scored 90 percent. Two University of Richmond swimmers come out as gay during an online campaign. RVA Bears, a group that serves for all of Richmond's bear population, is established. A study released by UCLA School of Law shows that same-sex marriage could bring $60 million to Virginia's economy. Tim Bostic, the plaintiff in the Virginia federal marriage case, is denied tenure by Old Dominion University.
May: The OutRVA campaign, created by VCU's Brandcenter, won a creativity award for LGBTQ Tourism campaign. James Madison University takes the lead for Virginia colleges and universities by protecting transgender employees and students. A bill is introduced by U.S> Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to ensure social security equality for same-sex couples. Michelle “CuzimEdgey” Livigne won "Best Drag Performer," and Babe's won "Best Gay Bar" in Style's Weekly's Best Of Richmond edition.
June: A Richmond transgendered woman was denied the use of a bathroom at McDonalds on the corner of Broad and Belvedere. Anna Paquin of True Blood came out on Twitter as a "proud bisexual mother." Gov. Terry McAuliffe honored LGBT Pride Month during a private event. The Virginia Department of Health teams of with Walgreens to provide free HIV testing from now until 2016 at certain locations.
July: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force withdrew its support for The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The Virginia Pilot advocated to expand LGBT workplace protection and benefits. The United Nations began to recognize staff members' same-sex unions according to laws where the unions were established. Laverne Cox from Netflix's Orange is the New Black, was the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy.
August: Attorney General Mark Herring asked Supreme Court to review Virginia's same-sex marriage decision. House GOP introduced "The Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014," which gives adoption agencies the right to deny LGBT couples. Virginia Court denies marriage decision stay - just two weeks shy of SCOTUS intervention. Tyler Vaughn, a transgender woman, claimed she was verbally assaulted by a kiosk employee at SouthPark Mall in Colonial Heights and was then asked to leave the mall by security.
September: Andrew Cray, LGBT health and transgender activist, lost his battle to cancer. OutRVA, Richmond's LGBT tourism campaign, was recognized in The New York Times. Former president Jimmy Carter delivered a speech on LGBT rights by saying "Jesus doesn't discriminate." Gov. Terry McAuliffe became the first standing Virginia governor to speak at Virginia Pride.
October: Studies released by Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law reveal that 5.2 to 9.5 million people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Equality Virginia held its inaugural transgender summit. Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered benefits for newly-wed same-sex state employees. Hedwig and the Angry Inch took Richmond by storm at THEATERLab. Former Lt. Governor nominee E. W. Jackson launched a petition to legalize LGBT discrimination.
November: Lawmakers push several bills to help remove same-sex marriage ban from state laws and constitution. One Gloucester trans-teen faces challenges at school using the rest room. Chesterfield County police officers are trained in LGBT youth issues. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced LGBT task force for Virginia Tourism. The Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index gives Richmond a 57, an increased score from last year, for the treatment of the LGBTQ community.
December: Richmond's World AIDS Day offers support, joy to those who are affected and effected. FDA urges officials to end ban on blood donations from gay, bisexual men. Richmond Councilman the Honorable Parker C. Agelasto honored World Aids Day with district-wide recognition. Virginia's policy on trans-youth athletes softens. Gloucester County School Board passed "discriminatory" bathroom rule.