The House of Delegates votes tomorrow on its version of the Parents Rights Bill and we need your urgent action.
Late last week the Virginia Senate provided us with a big victory when it passed its version of the bill, SB 908, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17, Fredericksburg), by a strong bipartisan 26-14 vote. Now, it's the House's turn when it votes on its version, HB 1642, patroned by Delegate Brenda Pogge (R-96, James City County). Amazingly, the more conservative House has given this bill rougher treatment than the Senate and we cannot take its outcome for granted. In fact, we were not sure it would even get to the House floor after hours of debate late Friday afternoon/early evening in the Courts of Justice Committee (see vote).
This legislation is significant because courts give special deference to "fundamental rights." While our state courts have so far ruled that parental rights are fundamental, they could reverse themselves at any time if the General Assembly remains silent. HB 1642 directly addresses this issue. The threat is real: 24 other states have reduced parental rights to "ordinary."
Some argue that the bill could have the effect of interfering with the state's ability to protect children from abuse or neglect. However, a fundamental right is not an absolute right. Courts have ruled that:
This fundamental right [to bring up children as one sees fit] is not unbounded. Indeed the state can legitimately impose restraints and requirements that touch the lives of children in direct conflict with the wishes of their parents.
In Virginia, it's time to reassert foundational principles such as the fundamental right of parents to raise their children. We have a long way to go still, and tomorrow's vote will determine much of the outcome. So, please contact your delegate.