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Activist Begins Efforts

Comments directed to Lianna Carrera and her girlfriend at the beach this summer inspired the West Springfield High School senior to keep up her vigilance, which inspires her to seek a career as a lobbyist.

At the beach it was a bunch of guys, and Carrera and her girlfriend, both lesbians, tried to shrug off the obscenities.

"They just made some remarks," she said. "I was hurt but I moved on. They're the ones in the wrong. It's ignorance like that that makes me want to keep fighting. I'm ready for it, bring it on."

Amid the family atmosphere of Springfield, where Carrera has lived since eighth grade, going against the grain isn't as easy as it seems, but Carrera hasn't experienced much adversity in school. She's even looking at starting her own Gay-Straight Alliance and feels she would get support from the students.

"I have had vocal support at West Springfield High School. I'm confident any of my friends would join. The problem is we have so many people that are neutral," she said.

Fellow student Kris Dizon has seen some that are not so liberal.

"There are people at the school that do have issues with that. It [Gay-Straight Alliance] would give encouragement to come out," he said.

Another student, Taylor Hook, was frank about it.

"She's gay, and I'm not gay. We're still friends," he said.

Carrera isn't so welcomed by the Fairfax County Public School's (FCPS) policy for gay students. There is no policy, according to her.

"Sexual orientation is not on there [school codes]. I definitely think there needs to be an update," she said.

Mary Shaw, FCPS spokesperson, said there has been some School Board action on that matter, which was submitted to school officials in Richmond.

"We were discussing a nondiscrimination policy in July which prohibits discrimination based on sexual discrimination for students and teachers. We have not received a response. This is something the School Board has to decide," Shaw said.

Chris Carlson, Class of 2002 at Edison, thinks it should be a non-issue, and sexual orientation should not be singled out for special treatment.

"I really don't think it should be an issue. I don't think it needs to be anything special," he said.

Carlson has also seen people treat gay and bisexual feelings like a fad.

"For a while it was a fad, they wanted attention. They put on a show in public, and that was it," he said.

CARRERA'S STRONG opinions have deep roots and even have a religious basis. Her father is a Baptist minister.

"I think I'm more strong-opinioned because I have a personal issue. I've been taught to be strong in my beliefs," she said.

Legitimate same-sex marriage is her vision. Same-sex civil unions are recognized in Vermont and Hawaii.

"To have it legal, that's huge. There are civil unions, which are not the same," she said.

One action she takes in that direction is her boycott of Exxon-Mobil and Cracker Barrel, two companies that she claims do not extend benefits to gay couples. There are many more companies, but with those she can actively boycott. She shops elsewhere.

"It's my conscience," she said.

ONE GROUP she aligns with is HRC, the Human Rights Campaign. In the ideal world, she would graduate from college and become a lobbyist for HRC. She has applied at William and Mary as well as Christopher Newport University.

"I want to major in political science and specialize in human rights," she said.

Carrera's aware her perfect employment situation may not happen and she doesn't really have a "Plan B," but she's still young.

In her backpack, she had HRC literature with anti-gay quotes from Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.