A Tragic Loss for Life and Family

On Wednesday, by a vote of 63-36 the House of Delegates, unfortunately, agreed to the Senate’s nominally-amended version of HB 1979 (D-48, Sullivan). (The Senate passed it 28-12.) The bill will now make its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Make no mistake, this legislation will bring a dramatic and harmful policy shift concerning the creation and treatment of human life, the rights of children, the basis for parenthood, the significance of marriage, and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. Despite the numerous victories so far this session, the passage of HB 1979 is of profound damage to the family. 

Some have called this bill "pro-life" because it will now allow single people and same-sex couples to contract with a surrogate mother to implant one or more of the one million "snowflake babies," which have been created in labs and are currently frozen. But those same legislators completely disregarded the obvious incentives this bill creates, which will only lead to countless more human embryos being created in labs, frozen, and left to languish. While we, too, want existing human embryos to have the opportunity to fully develop, this bill will only ensure this problem is multiplied. 

Another reason this bill cannot be pro-life is because it allows surrogacy contracts to include forced abortions, including “selective reductions,” which is the horrific practice of killing some of the babies in the womb, while leaving one or more alive. Some contracts also allow the intended parents to be able to require abortion of the child(ren) if the child appears to have a disability, or simply if they change their minds about wanting the child. This is commonplace in surrogacy contracts, and current Virginia law does not prohibit these types of agreements. This bill will greatly expand the number of surrogacy contracts, but without doing anything to protect against forced abortions at the demands of the “intended parents.” 

For the first time, this bill would sever the biological connection between a child and his or her parents before the child is ever born. Current law requires at least one parent to be a genetic parent of the child who is being intentionally created through assisted conception. This bill allows for there to be no genetic connection at all, replacing the legal basis for parenthood with a mere contract among willing adults, which effectively flips the current custodial paradigm of “best interests of the child” to one of merely the desires and intentions of any adult. 

Tragically, this bill, for the first time, allows for a child to be intentionally and permanently deprived of either a mother or a father before they are even born, and for the entirety of their life. (The bill removed all the references to “father”, “mother”, “husband” and “wife”.) Yet every person innately understands the value of having both a mother and father, and those who grow up without either a mother or a father tend to have a deep longing to have and to know them. Since the bill now allows single and non-married persons to contract with someone to produce a child for them through surrogacy simply because they want one, this Commonwealth has just declared that when it comes to bringing children into the world, married homes are no more preferred than single-parent homes. 

While the outcome is incredibly disappointing, we witnessed throughout the process incredible courage on the part of some legislators who did not succumb to the outside pressures to support this bill.  We want to especially thank Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33, Hamilton) for his commitment to protecting unborn life and speaking on the House floor in opposition to HB 1979 several times, including his great floor speech yesterday. Watch it HERE

HB 1979 is a clear illustration of the lengths that the Left (and now, even some on the Right) will go to in order to redefine the family by stripping away the biological connections between parents and children and to protect the barbaric practice of selective reduction and abortion. 

Please pray for us as we continue to fight against these dangerous anti-life and anti-family policies. 

The 'Wedding Wars' Come to Virginia

You’ve no doubt heard about the trouble with cake baker Jack Phillips in Colorado, florist Barronelle Stutzman in Washington, and other creative professionals who refused to lend their artistic talents to same-sex weddings in recent years. Now that trouble has come to Virginia.

Brett and Alex Sandridge, owners of the wedding photography and videography business Gardenia Weddings, have become the latest victims of intolerance. The young married couple faced immediate backlash after politely telling a same-sex couple that they “would not be the best match to film [the] wedding.” Brett and Alex made this decision because of how important it is for them to remain true to their beliefs. You can read about it here:

WDBJ 7Same-sex couple claims Charlottesville-based photographer discriminated against them
CBS 19 NewsCharlottesville-based wedding photographers refuse to serve same-sex couple

Wedding Wars.png

Brett and Alex probably had no idea that their small act of declining their artistic services in accordance with their conscience would ignite such a firestorm. Within 24 hours they had experienced a huge amount of backlash and a smear campaign so big that Facebook deactivated their page. Outraged crusaders from everywhere flooded the page with so many negative reviews that it may even put them out of business for good.

Sadly, this is what has come to be expected for anyone who doesn’t fully embrace – and even lend their artistic talents in celebration of – the judicially-created concept of same-sex marriage.

What’s unique about this situation is that it appears to be the first major flashpoint of the “wedding wars” within Virginia. Our state has enjoyed relative immunity from the merciless targeting of conscientious business owners in the wedding industry in large measure because Virginia has wisely declined to add the classifications of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) to our nondiscrimination laws. We know that such a law would be used to punish religious business owners, and we continue to point out this connection every chance we get. (Read my recent Op-Ed in The Roanoke Times about it.)  

It is worth noting that Brett and Alex Sandridge are experiencing the market equivalent of a tar-and-feathering for their decision without any non-discrimination law on the books to punish them for their convictions. The free market – all on its own – acted with incredible swiftness to address the “harm” that this same-sex couple felt in being turned down by Gardenia Weddings. (The highly connected and instantaneous world of social media brought about a kind of swift response that a court could never dream of offering.) Now the Sandridges are on the verge of losing everything within just days of their decision because it was not in lock-step with the demands of the uncompromising Sexual Revolution. Now just imagine how terrible it would be for them if the same-sex couple had access to a “nondiscrimination” law with which they could use as a weapon against these business owners and tie them up in expensive litigation for years.

This situation certainly puts to rest the oft-repeated argument that Virginia needs SOGI laws because LGBT people are unprotected in society. Far from being unprotected, those identifying as LGBT have an army of motivated supporters ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice– and in this case, even a long list of other wedding photographers all too eager to bless the couple with a free wedding photo/video package. It is clear that the only people in this scenario who may need more protection are the faith-based owners of Gardenia Weddings.      

Can the States Redefine Marriage?

Can the States Redefine Marriage?

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has just announced his retirement, and President Trump has just nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to take his place.  This means that Obergefell v. Hodges—which Kennedy authored—could be reversed, and states would regain the power to maintain their own marriage laws.  Virginia’s marriage amendment, which a growing number are seeking to repeal, may become more than an artefact of Virginia’s constitution.  Many right-leaning figures are, once again, trying to discern whether states have the right to redefine or even recognize marriage, while some argue that government “involvement” in marriage is contrary to human liberty.

FLE Spectacle

A progressive’s dream education bill died a merciless death in the House Education Committee earlier this week. HB 159, introduced by Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-11, Roanoke) aimed at gutting the only good parts of Virginia’s Family Life Education curriculum – including striking all aspects of the benefits of marriage, abstinence and of adoption in the cases of unwanted pregnancies, and then mandating every school district in the Commonwealth teach this valueless material to every child K-12.

The bill was so bad that his fellow Democrats ran as far away from him as possible. Supporting the bill were a long line of secular apologists whose outrageous comments raised laughs from the audience and scorn from committee members. When a William & Mary student, who is the secretary of the Virginia Young Democrats, said that the “research” shows that “abstinence doesn’t work” in preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies, an unsuspecting audience laughed out loud, and the Chairman of the committee nailed him on it. A Planned Parenthood representative even said that “the values” expressed in those benefits should be taught by parents at home, in essence admitting that “family life education” should be taught by families and not by the state. As for the icing on the cake, even the School Boards Association opposed the bill, perhaps the first time it has ever been on the same side of a bill with us.

You had to see it to believe it. You can watch it for yourself at this link.

Special thanks goes to Committee Chairman Steve Landes (R-25, Verona) whose persistent questions proved the supporters’ arguments baseless. The fact is, Planned Parenthood and NARAL were behind this bill that would promote irresponsible behavior by students. After all, Planned Parenthood provides materials and even teaches Family Life Education in some school districts. Talk about a conflict of interest!

Democrats on the committee backed off the bill so fast they almost fell off the dais. The Family Foundation reminded the committee that much of the curriculum the bill attempted to eliminate was signed into law by former Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. It was a bipartisan effort that started with recommendations by the Marriage Commission we put together that included marriage and family experts and academics, including the nationally respected Dr. Brad Wilcox of U.Va.

To save face with common sense Virginians and avoid alienating its base and benefactor (Planned Parenthood contributes millions of dollars to their party), committee Democrats offered an amendment to restore the curriculum the bill proposed to strike, but leave in its HIV education provision and K-12 universal mandate. But Republicans replied with a motion to effectively kill the bill once and for all. It was a party line 12-10 vote, with Democrats claiming they were trying to save their amendment, but no one was fooled.

Click here to see the video, then click the agenda tab, scroll and click on “HB 159 Patron Rasoul.”

The End of Mothers and Fathers

Men can’t be mothers. Women can’t be fathers. The fact of it is so self-evident, that it seems wholly unnecessary to state. And yet, even as I write this, I’m struck by the inescapable impression that many among us now not only disagree with this proposition, but actually believe it to be “immoral” to maintain.

Demonstrating just how widely this new viewpoint is being embraced, just a few weeks ago, Dove, a household name in skincare products (also my former soap bar provider), produced this ad about mothers, wherein it features a couple – a male and a female – and their new baby. In the ad, the man (with long hair and a tank top, but otherwise clearly a man) explains how both he and the woman are the child’s biological parents but that both of them “are the moms.” The camera focuses in on him cradling his baby suggestive of a typical new mother, and then later films him saying “there’s no one right way to do it all.” Amazingly, Dove picked the hashtag “#RealMoms” for its agenda-driven campaign.

The problem is that there’s nothing “real” at all about this man being his child’s “mother.” The moment this man contributed his half of the child’s DNA, he indisputably became the child’s father. Meanwhile, that child – like all children – critically needs him to live up to his fatherhood role. Yet Dove seems to be doing its best to legitimize and normalize a destructive falsehood – one that will have devastating consequences for that man, his family, his child, and for society at large. Sadly, Dove is not alone. It is but one of many examples in this recent push towards mass delusion.    

Unfortunately, throwing science and reason to the wind has not been limited to select private entities or even to a rapidly changing culture. This pervasive disavowal of fundamental truths is permeating all levels and every branch of civil government.

Consider Knox County, TN, whose courts for the first time last week granted a woman all the legal rights of a “husband” in her same-sex “divorce” proceedings. Despite Tennessee’s clear statutory language of a “husband” and a “wife”, the judge determined that because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell opinion eviscerating the definition of civil marriage, the “law” required him to designate the woman as a “husband”, without regard to the fact that only males can be husbands.

But it’s even worse than that. Because the woman was granted all the legal rights of a “husband,” she was also legally recognized as the “father” of the child that her partner birthed through artificial insemination. In the “law” it seems, women really can be fathers after all. Or, at least in the imaginary world we’ve created for ourselves in post-Obergefell America. 

The problem is that when both the culture and the law nullify all meaningful distinctions between moms and dads to make them essentially interchangeable, then any and all significance of moms and dads evaporates along with them. Consequently in such a world, moms and dads no longer matter. And suddenly what we once celebrated as being intrinsically unique and worthy of being set apart, cherished, and encouraged is now no more special than any other person or thing. And since a mom and a dad are no longer considered a necessary and complementary part of a whole, there is no reason to be concerned about the absence of one or both in the life of a child.

Yet the fact remains, no matter what anyone says and no matter how fervently the culture strives to exchange the real world for a pretend world of its own making, kids will always need a mom and a dad. Many decades of social science leave no doubt about it. And even when that isn’t possible for every child, it’s still true that every child has the best opportunity to flourish when they have both a mom and a dad who play a central and distinct role in their lives. And not only that, but women will continue to be best suited for the nurturing role that only mothers can uniquely fulfill in their child’s life. And likewise, men will continue to be best suited for the corrective and affirming role that only a father can uniquely play in the life of his child.   

Thus, despite this new movement’s relentless pursuit to shatter these notions, it can never actually succeed in doing so. That doesn’t mean, however, that it won’t have the effect of shattering a whole lot of lives in the process of trying. We have a responsibility to help ensure that doesn’t happen, because moms and dads are treasures of incomparable worth, and nothing and no one could ever take their place in the life of a child.  

If ever we took that for granted, let this be our wake-up call. 

LGBT Tourism?

The Virginia Tourism Corporation, which controls the "Virginia is for Lovers" tourism site, has recently started a new promotion aimed at attracting "LGBT" vacationers to spend their dollars in Virginia. This site, pushed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and prominently displays a picture of the governor marrying a lesbian couple, is just another example of how our culture is in decay and why we need to continue to fight back.   

Saying that "Our LOVE story is bigger, better, and more inclusive than ever before," the new campaign "promotes businesses and hosts who self identify as 'LGBT' friendly." Though that may sound all well and good on its face, the potential implications are very troubling.  This new system for listing businesses who self-identify with the Virginia Tourism Corporation as "LGBT-friendly" could easily pave the way for stigmatizing every business who does not affirmatively self-identify as pro-gay. While on the surface appearing like a basic free-market idea where businesses are free to advertise as being "gay friendly", this "advertisement" scheme is stripped of its free-market nature because the government itself holds the keys to the roster. At the end of the day, it will be overwhelmingly faith-based business owners who are hurt. Sooner or later, someone is going to question why they have not "voluntarily" added their business to the list. 

If you don't think businesses and business owners who believe in traditional values won't be stigmatized or targeted, look no further than Melissa and Aaron Klein, who were forced to pay over $136,000 in fines by the state of Oregon because they refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple, citing their religious belief in traditional marriage. And in Colorado, Masterpiece Cakeshop was fined and the owners were told that, "they cannot refuse to prepare wedding cakes for gay couples, saying the refusal violated the state's public accommodation law that requires businesses to serve customers regardless of their sexual orientation."

And if you think that this new ad campaign is just a publicity stunt,  tourism corporation spokeswoman Caroline Logan clearly stated that the push for LGBT tourism "... is going to be fully integrated in all our marketing, from top to bottom, this will be going on forever as far as we're concerned." The Virginia Tourism Corporation website now promotes the economic impact that the LGBT community can have on Virginia, provides a resource guide for attracting LGBT business, and is willing to help "LGBT-friendly" businesses get a taxpayer supported leg up on businesses owned by individuals with traditional values by helping with marketing efforts to attract more business.  

At a minimum, our taxpayer dollars should not be promoting "LGBT" initiatives through Virginia's tourism. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth should leave the designations for how "friendly" businesses are to the free market, rather than attempting to facilitate back-door schemes to pick winners and losers. Instead, it should get back to the business of carrying out one of its most important tasks: protecting the conscience rights of all Virginians.  

Study Challenges SOGI Assumptions

A landmark report on the science behind “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) was released recently by The New Atlantis Journal of Technology & Society.  Compiled by two leading researchers – one an eminent psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins University – the report looks at data derived from nearly 200 peer-reviewed studies on these topics and finds that many, if not most, of the widely repeated claims about SOGI have no basis in science.  

Among the main conclusions the report drew, it was found most notably that:

i.                     The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are “born that way”—is not supported by scientific evidence. 

ii.                   Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a “man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body”—is not supported by scientific evidence. 

iii.                  Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

iv.                 Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity. 

What makes this report so compelling was that it reviewed research that has already been available, and then simply stated the reasonable conclusions based on the findings therein.

Already widely accepted among many diverse faith communities who have accepted these findings to be true all along, such a reputable scientific report supporting that knowledge can be powerful in shifting the momentum of the larger societal and policy debate on these issues. The data is also valuable in helping us to most successfully address the difficult struggles of the individuals who experience feelings of confusion in their sexual desires and their birth sex.

Frankly, the findings of this report were not unexpected – just perhaps long overdue.

Hopefully in light of this evidence, more reasonable minds will begin to consider the actual biological, psychological, and sociological science when it comes to matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. Perhaps then, we can dispense with the sly pretenses of “discrimination” claims traditionally associated with immutable traits.  Something tells me, however, this is wishful thinking, since it is clear that the SOGI movement has always really been about ideology over biology/science.  So if nothing else, this hard-hitting report just exposes this agenda that much more.    

Hollywood Values?

Recently, Chad Griffin, president of the so-called Human Rights Campaign, one of the secular left’s political groups behind government-forced acceptance of marriage redefinition, at a Hollywood fundraiser said of a religious freedom bill being debated in Georgia, “It’s an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on.”

Considering the “values Hollywood prides itself on,” I’d argue that is an endorsement of the bill Mr. Griffin was attempting to condemn! 

The legislation that Griffin labeled “un-American” would simply ensure that religious charities and schools would have their day in court if attacked as discriminatory for adhering to Biblical principles regarding marriage and sexuality.  Well, at least that’s what the bill was purported to do, until an amendment was added recently that made the proposal essentially meaningless.  But even that isn’t good enough for the secular left who continue to use big business, Hollywood and the sports entertainment industry to bludgeon lowly state legislators who still believe the First Amendment matters. 

Of course, if all that is important are “jobs and the economy,” as we’ve been told ad nauseam by both political parties, the threats by those who employ large numbers of people (and spend lots of money on political campaigns) are downright frightening, and no match for cultural Christians who are going to spend untold millions propping up Hollywood and the sports entertainment anyway.

Still, Mr. Griffin’s comment is telling.  The “Hollywood values” of which he speaks have for decades been antithetical to everything many Americans believed to be moral, reasonable and principled and at one point (like yesterday maybe?) were cause for disdain and ridicule.  Now those same values are being trumpeted as the very definition of what it is to be an American.