A committee of the Richmond City Council last Thursday again delayed a decision on violating the state Constitution that prohibits the granting of the benefits of marriage to same-sex "marriages." This after several local pastors expressed their opposition to the proposal at a press conference outside of City Hall earlier in the day. But the fact that local governments don't have the authority to grant such benefits, or add sexual behavior to other policies, hasn’t stopped some Virginia local governments from ignoring the law. One of the more outrageous examples is the Rockingham County School Board.
Last year, that Board voted to add to its "sexual harassment" policies language that is so vague and nearly uninterpretable that it simply begs for legal challenge and undermines efforts to combat real instances of sexual harassment. It also borders in similarity on the policy recently passed by the San Antonio, Texas City Council that clearly violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The School Board's policy includes a prohibition against "negative statements, rumors, name calling, physical acts of aggression, written or graphic material intended to degrade an individual for his or her noncompliance with gender stereotypes."
Obviously, the phrase "negative statements" is so vague and open to interpretation that it can prohibit any statement that someone might disagree with when it comes to sexual behavior. The simple statement from a student or teacher that they "believe sex outside of marriage" or "homosexuality" is sinful could be interpreted under this policy as sexual harassment! One can make such a statement in the most winsome and caring way but that won’t matter because the purpose here is obviously to silence anyone with a deeply held religious conviction that some types of sexual behavior are sinful.
And that doesn’t begin to try to explain what the Board means by "noncompliance with gender stereotypes." Why such ridiculous linguistic gymnastics? Why not simply say what they mean?
Could it be that the School Board knows that if the community actually knew what it had spent precious time on, instead of actually focusing on the education of students, it would be outraged? We are still trying to determine if the public had any input on this policy at all and if not, why? What is the School Board so ashamed of that they had to add this to their policy in a block vote with little or no public discussion?
So much of our time is focused on what is happening in Washington, D.C. that we are unaware of the battles in our own communities. While the City of Richmond struggles with multiple failing schools and a failing infrastructure, the City Council there is spending its time — and potentially resources — on a policy that is blatantly unconstitutional. Other communities, like Charlottesville, are wasting the taxpayers' time as well.
If you live in Richmond or Rockingham County I urge you to contact your local elected officials to express your outrage at their actions. If not, check with local officials where you live to see if your community is at risk. Local officials will continue to get away with ignoring the law only if you let them.