October 11, 2013, will go down in history as the day the Virginia Equality Bar Association (VEBA) was formed, thanks to the work of Ashley Moore, L'14, and more than twenty legal professionals who were instrumental in organizing the advocacy group devoted to the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
According to its website, VEBA is an "independent, non-partisan, voluntary professional organization of LGBT legal professionals and their allies in the legal community that will seek to secure equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity."
Moore was the only student who participated in the organization of VEBA. She said the idea for the organization developed after attending a forum on LGBT family law at the College of William & Mary during the fall 2012 semester. She said it came to her attention that there were no groups for gay lawyers in Virginia. "There's Gay Law in DC, Massachusetts has an LGBT bar association, there's a national bar association, but there's nothing like that in Virginia." She thought a good place to start would be gathering professionals to generate a conversation about organizing a group. She and fellow co-organizer Marc Purinton planned a cocktail party to congregate gay lawyers in Richmond. Claire Gastañaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, also joined the project.
A subsequent meeting in Charlottesville, Va., brought together more people who were interested in forming a bar association for LGBT professionals, including two of the initial directors of VEBA, Timothy Lyons, associate attorney at Livingston Law in Charlottesville, and Cordel Faulk, director of admissions at the University of Virginia School of Law. Moore said there were enough LGBT lawyers in Virginia to make the organization a reality. "Things are happening really fast," she added. In just six months, the organization evolved from an idea to the formation of an official association.
In reference to the goals of VEBA, Moore commented, "Part of it's educational, part of it's visibility. It's partially support and community." She added, "If you are a gay lawyer or a gay law student, you are not alone. If you are a member of the LGBT community and you need help with something, there are people who will understand."
VEBA is currently working on expanding its board of directors, a process in which Moore has volunteered to participate. She said she hopes to continue to be involved with the organization after she graduates.
Moore is also president of the School of Law's Equality Alliance chapter, a student organization that serves as a forum for LGBT students to address social, political, and educational challenges. She said leadership is a role she has grown into over the course of law school. "I have grown more in my three years of law school than I have through any other experience. I have become so much more confident and capable through going to law school." Moore added that she plans to contribute to advocacy groups in the future.
Moore is also a member of University of Richmond's One Book, One Richmond program committee, which chose to focus this year's campus-wide social justice program on The Laramie Project, a book by Moisés Kaufman about the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming gay student Matthew Shepard. She said her involvement in both the program committee and the Equality Alliance student organization has made it easier to bring LGBT issues to the law school as well as to the entire University campus.
"One of my goals as the president is to expand that conversation and to pull in more people, whether it's other law students, other professors, or the community. And I think I've been pretty successful at that," Moore said. Equality Alliance's most recent event, which featured a discussion of the gay panic defense—a defense strategy attempted during the Matthew Shepard trial—was well attended by both law and undergraduate students. Moore commented, "I thought it was fantastic, and I want to keep doing things like that." She added, "We keep trying to make the circles bigger."
When asked about her future plans, Moore said, "Knowing that the community is here and being so involved with it, being connected to the people who are in it now, and knowing that there is a support network in place is something that is pushing me to stay in Richmond and contribute to the community."
After graduating next spring, Moore plans to work in the area of international business law with a specialty in investment law.