Equality Virginia

#Distraction

On Saturday, Democrat Terry McAuliffe was sworn in as the 72nd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and it didn't take long before he dove into the "social issues" liberals have always claimed are "distractions" from the "real issues," such as jobs and the economy. In his inaugural address, Governor McAuliffe said:

We must work . . . to ensure that someone can't lose a job simply because they are gay.

And to ensure that every woman has the right to make her own personal health care decisions. 

As expected, his first act of business had nothing to do with the economy, but was to issue Executive Order No. 1 that purports to provide special hiring protections in state government based on sexual behavior. Of course, what Governor McAuliffe failed to mention is that no evidence exists that discrimination based on "sexual orientation" is taking place. In fact, if discrimination in state hiring took place, you can be guaranteed that the ACLU, Equality Virginia and other groups would be parading that person around Virginia with the media hysterically telling everyone about it. Their silence on providing evidence is all we need to know about the needlessness of the executive order, while the evidence that elevating sexual behavior to special status is a threat to religious liberty is plentiful.

Of course, in his speech Governor McAuliffe wouldn't utter the word "abortion," instead using the liberal euphemism for taking the life of your unborn child, "health care decisions." The reality is that women in Virginia can have an abortion anytime they want and for just about any reason, and nothing interferes with their "personal health care decision" to do so. What is, interfering, however, is Obamacare, which has the full support of McAuliffe. Women in Virginia don't have the freedom to choose their own doctor. Women in Virginia don't have the freedom to choose their own insurance. But Governor McAuliffe seems perfectly content with the government taking those freedoms away. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Already, our policy team is working to defeat the nearly two dozen abortion or sex-related bills introduced by liberals in Richmond. While fewer Americans are working today than were when Jimmy Carter was president, secular liberals are obsessed with abortion and sex. Perhaps they think the "war on women" narrative will provide cover for them while the economy continues to sink? And you needn't worry about the media exposing them. At a Capitol Square press conference yesterday to unveil some of the 20-odd bills on the Democrats'  social issue agenda (see our reaction, here), Delegate Kay Kory (D-38, Falls Church) pleaded with reporters to "be there" when these bills are heard, even if the meetings are late at night. These legislators want the media there because they know the coverage given often is favorable to their agenda.

Last Thursday, we released some of our legislative agenda to the media. You can read our news release here. We look forward to advocating for these and other proposals in the coming weeks. Regardless of who sits in the Executive Mansion, we will work as hard as possible to advance and protect the principles and values we share.

Delegate Todd Gilbert Named TFF’s Legislator Of The Year

On Friday, we presented Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock) with The Family Foundation's 2013 Legislator of the Year Award. The presentation was made at the Valley Family Forum's annual dinner in Harrisonburg. This year, Delegate Gilbert was the House patron for one of our most consequential legislative priorities, legislation that protects the freedom of association and freedom of religion rights of student groups on public college campuses. This followed his leadership last year on legislation that protects the rights of faith-based child placement agencies to operate according to their religious beliefs. Both bills protecting our liberty have become models for the rest of the nation. About receiving the award, Delegate Gilbert said:

I was surprised and honored to be named The Family Foundation's Legislator of the Year. The Family Foundation and I have teamed up in the last few years to do some amazing work protecting religious liberty and traditional moral values, and together we have accomplished some great things for Virginia.

Delegate Gilbert's solid pro-life, pro-family voting record is complemented only by his leadership in his caucus, in committee, and on the floor of the House, where he is more than willing to stand — no doubt much to the chagrin of some around him — to defend life, marriage and religious liberty, and to take on those legislators who seek to undermine our values and principles.

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Delegate Todd Gilbert (L) receives The Family Foundation Legislator of the Year Award and congratulations from TFF Vice President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund.

Delegate Gilbert's leadership has made him the target of the secular left, and in particular Equality Virginia. The state's largest homosexual organization has targeted Delegate Gilbert because of his strong stance on religious liberty and his opposition to adding protection for sexual behavior to the state's non-discrimination law. In an environment of hostility, where the very phrase "social issues" or "values issues" causes some of our elected officials to reflexively run for cover, the media hysteria over anything pro-life or pro-family, and the secular left's endless rhetorical assault on conservative legislators — plus a clear cultural shift away from Godly principles and a too often silent church — few legislators are willing to lead like Delegate Gilbert.

It is always an honor to present an award to legislators of conviction who put principle before politics to advance our shared values. Congratulations to Delegate Gilbert for winning this year's Legislator of the Year award. We look forward to continuing to work with him on protecting and advancing our values.

Homosexual Activists Go On Offensive Against Conservative Legislator

Last week we reported that a House General Laws sub-committee defeated legislation that would have elevated sexual behavior to a protected class, led by the action of Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock). Since then, the usual alliance of media and homosexual activists have ridiculed Delegate Gilbert for his stand. In the sub-committee meeting, Delegate Gilbert pointed out that no evidence of discrimination has been presented in the several years this bill has been introduced. Such a factual statement flies in the face of the illusion of discrimination that fear-mongering groups create with their claims. Proponents of the bill challenged Delegate Gilbert's statement by saying people are unwilling to come forward since they don't have legal protections, but their argument is nonsense. Equality Virginia for years, through its website and other means, has elicited people who believe they've been discriminated against. Yet no one has come forward to the sub-committee.

Let's be honest. If people had actual evidence of discrimination they would be filing lawsuits and holding press conferences every day, with the media falling all over themselves to "prove" the need for the law.

Even some of those who testified in sub-committee in favor of the bill admitted that they had moved to Virginia because of professional opportunities not available to them in other states! Clearly, they weren't so worried about being discriminated against that it kept them from relocating to Virginia.

Click here to view a video of the sub-committee.

Now, though, Delegate Gilbert has also been targeted for carrying HB 1617, the Student Group Protection Act, a Family Foundation priority, which simply ensures the free association rights of students on public college campuses. Incredibly, homosexual activists are claiming that the bill promotes discrimination! The bill already has passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support and is on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature.

Delegate Gilbert has led on these and other issues in the General Assembly and, as a result, is being targeted by the secular left. We hope you will take a moment and e-mail your thanks to Delegate Gilbert for his strong stand this year. His official House e-mail address is: DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov.

Sexual Orientation Bill Passes Senate Committee

In a surprise vote Monday afternoon, the Senate General Laws Committee, by a vote of 8-7, reported SB 701 to the full Senate. This bill would add sexual orientation to the state's hiring policy of non-discrimination. A similar bill died in the same committee last year, but Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester) changed her vote. If this bill is successful, it would be the first time in Virginia history that sexual orientation would be elevated to a protected class in the law. A vote is likely by the end of the week.

Please contact your senator today and urge him or her to vote NO on SB 701 when it comes up for a vote in the full Senate.

Debates over similar legislation during the last several legislative sessions revealed no evidence of widespread discrimination. In fact, according to The Washington Post, there are "thousands of homosexuals" working in state government. Both previous governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, signed executive orders against discrimination, and Governor Bob McDonnell issued an executive directive stating that his administration will not discriminate against homosexuals. In fact, since 1992, a span of 18 years, an allegation of discrimination has taken place at a rate of just over one per year, and few, if any, have been found to be true discrimination.

This is a solution in search of a problem.

In addition, SB 701 will open the Commonwealth of Virginia to costly litigation by people who fail to qualify for employment but sue the state based on this proposal. SB 701 would open private businesses and faith-based entities to similar litigation. The words of an Equality Virginia lobbyist reveal the true intent of the legislation: she stated that voting for the bill that would add sexual orientation to the state government hiring policy was a "baby step."

A baby step toward what? In response, we presented the committee with the argument that passing the legislation is a "baby step" toward requiring private businesses, and faith-based ministries that receive state funding, to hire homosexuals. This has already happened in other states, including our neighbor Maryland.

Elevating sexual orientation to a protected class, despite the fact that homosexuality is not immutable, would create an entirely new level of protection — protection based on one's sexual behavior. Senators need to hear from you today!

Fundraising Off Of A False Fear

When the General Assembly convenes tomorrow, there will be at least one social issue that the media and the radical secular left will be promoting — adding sexual orientation to the Commonwealth's "non-discrimination" laws. While spun by groups like Equality Virginia as simply allowing "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Virginians to be who they are, have a more secure financial future and build stronger families," changing the Commonwealth's current law to be even more expansive than federal protections brings a host of problems to Virginia. Current Virginia non-discrimination laws mirror federal law for a variety of reasons, including court precedent. In Virginia, evidence that discrimination against homosexuals is taking place in state government, or anywhere for that matter, is less than compelling. According to the Department of Human Resource Management, which tracks allegations of discrimination, from 1992 forward there were 24 registered complaints based on sexual orientation, amounting for fewer than 2 per year. Among these 24 complaints in an 18-year period, not all complaints can be assumed to be founded. In fact, from July 1, 2009 – March 9, 2010, only three complaints of sexual orientation discrimination were filed; and as of the March date, none had been deemed "founded."

Even The Washington Post admits that . . .

thousands of homosexuals work in state government.

Testimony on this kind of legislation in past General Assembly sessions has essentially been about a "fear" of discrimination, a fear not based on actual incidents of discrimination. Sadly, much of that fear is fueled more by the scare tactic fundraising efforts of groups like Equality Virginia than it is by reality. Unfortunately, while Governor Bob McDonnell has made it expressly clear that discrimination in his administration will not be tolerated, and evidence of discrimination is non-existent, some homosexual state workers live in fear because of the rhetoric of homosexual rights groups. In fact, a few weeks ago, Equality Virginia sent out a fundraising e-mail alert focusing on our opposition to adding sexual orientation to "non-discrimination" laws.

Unfortunately, recent incidents across the nation have exposed the agenda of militant homosexual rights groups as being about far more than "equality" or "stronger families." It is very clear, after viscous rhetorical attacks on businesses that simply adhere to a traditional view of family structure, the attempted public humiliation and job discrimination against people who simply sign petitions that support marriage amendments, or the attempt to force faith-based ministries that help families and children to abandon their beliefs about family structure, there is far more to the "non-discrimination" effort that meets the eye.

While theoretically, the General Assembly will attempt to avoid "social issues" at the bequest of political pundits and the media, it will be interesting to see if those same media types and pundits label the "non-discrimination" effort as "distracting" and "divisive" social issues that should be avoided. Regardless, we will stand up to the hateful rhetoric of the secular left and encourage the General Assembly to maintain our current law.

General Assembly Votes to Ensure Judicial Integrity

Tuesday morning with the clock approaching 2:00, the House of Delegates voted to not appoint to a judgeship Tracy Thorne-Begland (see roll call vote). After spending more than twelve hours debating and voting on budget amendments and discussing issues in their respective caucuses, retired military members of the House led the charge during debate over Mr. Thorne-Begland, expressing serious concerns over his actions while a member of the U.S. Military. As we posted late last week, Mr. Thorne-Begland has a long history of political activism and received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy after going on national television to announce that he had violated federal law, the so-called "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy enthusiastically signed into law by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in the early 1990s. More recently, he has made public statements that reveal a personal political agenda that runs contrary to the Virginia Constitution and statute. Many of these concerns did not come to light until after he had been deemed qualified to be a judge by the General Assembly's Courts of Justice Committees.

Today, Virginia Democrats and Equality Virginia lashed out at General Assembly members and The Family Foundation for last night’s votes. Unable to answer the concerns about Mr. Thorne-Begland’s statements, they have predictably resorted to name-calling. Democrat Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran said:

It is difficult to consider last night's vote without using the word "bigoted," just as it's difficult to consider this period of unified Republican government without using the word "disaster.”

Senator Donald McEachin (D-8, Richmond), who put forth Mr. Thorne-Begland's name to be a judge in the first place, said:

The GOP took Virginia back to the bigotry and mean-spirited prejudice of the 1960s.

Delegate Mark D. Sickles, (D-43, Fairfax) said in a statement:

And, it shows that legislators are more concerned about the Family Foundation scorecard than Richmond's District Court.

Equality Virginia also took aim at The Family Foundation, saying:

(The legislature) allowed fear mongering and shrill personal attacks by the Family Foundation … to derail Richmond lawyer Tracy Thorne-Begland’s election to the bench simply because he is an out gay man.

Of course, our position since this was first brought to our attention last week has been concern about public statements and political activity, and a violation of the military oath, that demonstrate a willingness to put a personal political agenda above all else. That was our concern. On Friday, Delegate Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas) also announced public concerns over the nomination and spoke in opposition to it during last night's debate.

Former military members of the House of Delegates, led by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-31, Woodbridge), Rich Anderson (R-51, Woodbridge) and Mark Dudenhefer (R-2, Stafford), spoke passionately during the House floor debate about their concern over Thorne-Begland’s violation of his military oath. Each made the case that the real issues here concerned integrity, truth, duty and an oath of office. The integrity of the courts was at stake with this vote, they argued.

Several legislators worked for several days to bring to light the concerns over this nomination. We thank each of those legislators who worked both behind the scenes and took strong public stands in the face of vile attacks by liberals.

As has been the case almost since the day after conservatives won majorities in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate in November, Virginia liberals have been on the rhetorical attack. Regardless of the issue, they resort to mean-spirited name-calling, misinformation and bullying. They redefine issues and assert false motivations to their opponents. After losing election after election, you would think Virginia's Left would finally figure out that they are on the wrong side of these issues, but with the help of some in the Mainstream Media and the editorial pages, they continue to attack pro-family legislators simply for standing up for the truth. Their hope is, of course, that Virginians will be bullied into silence on these important issues.

The General Assembly is tasked with reviewing and certifying judges. If that is little more than a rubber stamp, it means nothing. It has a duty to block judges deemed unqualified or unfit for the bench. Last night, legislators simply did their job.

Judge Not? Will General Assembly On Monday Elect Controversial Attorney To State Bench?

One of the General Assembly's most important jobs is to elect judges throughout Virginia. The commonwealth is made up of four levels of state courts is ascending order: General District and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts, Circuit Courts, Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Virginia has 32 districts and within each district there is a court in each city and county. On Monday, the General Assembly will return to Richmond to deal with Governor Bob McDonnell's budget amendments and with the appointment of judges. Currently, there are several vacancies throughout the court system. The appointment of state judges usually receives very little public input. Legislators make recommendations to Senate and House committees, which certify that the nominees are qualified members of the Virginia bar, under state law.

One of the individuals who will be voted on by the General Assembly Monday as a nominee for a judgeship, Tracy Thorne-Begland, has a long history of political activism, was at the forefront of repealing the federal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, and once served as a board member and vice chairman for Equality Virginia, the commonwealth's largest and most influential homosexual activist group. In fact, this nominee for Richmond’s 13th General District Court was with President Obama when he signed the repeal of DADT. Additionally, Mr. Thorne-Begland has lashed out publicly against Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on a host of issues related to the homosexual agenda, saying, "He’s already stood in the way" in relation to Mr. Cuccinelli's urging of public colleges and universities to follow state law when it comes to non-discrimination policies. Thorne-Begland also criticized Mr. Cuccinelli for being "against hate crime laws" and "employment discrimination" protections based on sexual behavior.

One statement he made in 2004 in particular stands out. In an interview with Richmond Magazine, Thorne-Begland said, "In Virginia, we’re seeing a different situation. The situation is so hostile to gay and lesbian interests, particularly the judicial system, a lot of gay and lesbians choose to leave." It’s the "particularly the judicial system" statement that is especially concerning. Does he plan to use his position as a judge to accomplish his political agenda?

In 2004, Mr. Thorne-Begland was asked his opinion of the Marriage Affirmation Act, a law that was the model for Virginia's Marriage Amendment, and Virginia's climate toward homosexuals. Mr. Thorne-Begland signaled his optimism and said:

Perfect example: Virginia is the only state in the union that allows businesses to decide whether they can offer health care to gays and lesbians. When progressive representatives in the legislature sought to require businesses to extend domestic-partner benefits, laws are adopted that outright coerce Virginians to accept this way of thinking.

Mr. Thorne-Begland's thoughts regarding the use of coercion to change minds and force private businesses to follow his agenda flies directly in the face of free market political principles. The question is, will his personal political agenda take precedent over Virginia law and the constitution? Is he going to uphold laws he clearly and very publicly disagrees with? What does he believe is the role of the courts in moving in a more "progressive" direction? These concerns have come to light in the time since members of the General Assembly's Judicial Appointment subcommittee interviewed him.

There is additional concern that, once appointed, a progressively minded judge would be fast-tracked by a liberal governor or president to a higher court, such as the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Considering that judges have extraordinary power, one would hope that they would have a commitment to the state and federal constitutions that overrides their personal political agendas. When one is a judicial nominee who has shown himself to be willing to personally violate the law (he violated DADT while in the Navy) and publicly attack a sitting attorney general who is enforcing the law, we share the concerns of several members of the General Assembly, and would hope that it takes a long, hard look at whether that person should elected to the bench.

Until we can be assured he will not put his obvious political agenda ahead of the law, we don't believe he should be approved.

If you would like to express your opinion to your senator and delegate about the General Assembly's consideration of Tracy Thorne-Begland to a judgeship, please click here.

Board Votes To Delay Adoption Regulations 30 Days, But No Change Is Expected

The Virginia Board of Social Services yesterday voted to delay the implementation of recently approved adoption regulations under the threat of costly litigation from the ACLU and Equality Virginia (see The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). In a not unexpected decision, the vote will allow for 30 days of additional comment, beginning September 12. As we noted yesterday, however, with Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opposing the old proposed regulations on several grounds, opponents will only succeed in dragging out the process longer and perhaps set the stage for a legal action challenging Virginia law. In April, the VBSS voted 7-2 to adopt new regulations for Virginia's private adoption services. The regulations approved did not include a proposal that would have discriminated against faith-based adoption agencies by forcing them to adopt children to homosexuals. Despite having nearly two years to make their case through the regulatory process, organizations such as Equality Virginia and the ACLU claimed that the decision to not include the discriminatory language was done so without adequate information (see the AP via wral.com).

After losing the vote in April, Equality Virginia and the ACLU threatened to sue if they did not get an additional public comment period (see The Richmond Times-Dispatch). During the initial public comment time, more than 1,000 Virginians commented on the proposed regulations, with only around 30 in favor. On average, proposed regulations receive less than two dozen comments.

At yesterday's meeting, a host of representatives from the homosexual lobby spoke in favor of the additional comment period (see Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog). Some of the speakers honestly stated that they believed allowing homosexuals to adopt should take precedence over the religious liberty rights of faith-based organizations.

When the comment period is opened we will encourage you to make your voice heard on this important issue. It is clear that homosexual groups intend to use the additional 30 days to get as much publicity as possible. We must make sure that the Board of Social Services hears from Virginians who believe in religious liberty.

Admin's notes: Family Foundation staff is quoted in every cited link in the post above. Please click those links to read further. In addition, we were cited on the National Organization For Marriage Blog (click here).

Also, Family Foundation Vice President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund was featured in coverage from WTVR/CBS6 in Richmond (immediately below) and on Charlottesville's WVIR/NBC29 (click this link)

30 days more. The homosexual lobby and ACLU couldn't wait to slow down the process. 

Lawsuit Threatened In Adoption Regulations Battle

Today, the Virginia Board of Social Services is scheduled to consider a request by several homosexual activist groups to reopen its decision to protect the rights of private, faith-based adoption agencies. In April, the VBSS approved new regulations for adoption agencies that did not include a proposal that would have forced private, faith-based adoption agencies to adopt children into homes with co-habitating, unmarried couples. Unfortunately, homosexual activist groups are not satisfied with the nearly two-year regulatory process and 30-day public comment period already undertaken and are petitioning the VBSS for an additional 30 days of public comment, thus requiring a second, unnecessary vote. Oddly, groups like Equality Virginia and the ACLU that today are advocating for more public comment were silent for nearly two years as the regulations, stealthily proposed by former Governor Tim Kaine, went through the process. After losing the vote (7-2) in April, they suddenly are very interested in more time and another vote. Now they are threatening a costly, frivolous lawsuit if they don't get their way. It's also odd that they talk a lot about freedom, but they have no forcing private institutions into policies that run counter to their believes. Apparently, religious liberty isn't a freedom they choose to protect.

During the earlier comment period, only an approximate 30 of the 1,000-plus public comments were favorable toward adding restrictions on faith-based charities (see Washington Times). In 2002, the last year for which data is available, nearly 80 percent of adoptions in Virginia were facilitated by private organizations, nearly half of which are faith-based. Adding the restrictions advocated by Equality Virginia and the ACLU would seriously threaten the well-being of thousands of children awaiting adoption. Similar actions have forced charities to close their doors to children and families in other states.

Sadly, it appears that these organizations are more interested in advancing their political agenda than helping vulnerable children. Punishing the organizations that handle 80 percent of the adoptions in Virginia to advance a political agenda is punitive and harsh. The Board of Social Services, as well as the overwhelming majority of those in the public who commented, saw that and rejected the proposed regulation.

The Family Foundation will monitor the meeting today and comment if necessary. Regardless of the VBSS' decision on opening the public comment period again to avoid an unnecessary lawsuit, we don't anticipate a change in the final vote. The majority of Virginians have spoken in the previous public comment period, Governor Bob McDonnell has committed to protecting faith-based agencies (Richmond Times-Dispatch), and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Washington Post) has made it clear that the proposed restrictions are unnecessary. Equality Virginia and the ACLU may get their press conference and media exposure, but we will fight for the children and families as well as religious liberty.

It's May Which Means Soon We'll Have Some Surprise Announcements

What does late spring in an odd year mean? Of course! The Family Foundation Action General Assembly Report Card soon will be released, grading all 140 members of the General Assembly over the last two years on matters of family values and limited government (click here for ordering information). It also means our Annual General Assembly Report soon will be available online. It's a summary of events and an overview of the recent session, a look at what was accomplished and what was not, as well as a behind the scenes look at how some legislation was made (not pretty!). We'll post the details and the link as soon as it becomes available. We also have a pretty big announcement, hopefully, sometime this week. Keep checking back for it. We think you'll like this surprise — and it's not the Equality Virginia news conference tomorrow, either, although we'll be there to cover it just in case there is anything if import to come out of it. So, please continue to log on to our social media sites to keep up to date on several news items from The Family Foundation.

Religious Freedom In Virginia Adoption Protected, Sexual Orientation Not

Late this afternoon, the Virginia Board of Social Services voted 7-2 to accept new regulations for adoption agencies that do not include formerly proposed non-discrimination protections for homosexuals. This is a victory for religious liberty and means that faith-based adoption agencies can continue serving Virginia's children and families without being forced to violate their faith principles. The previously proposed regulations that included sexual behavior protections were replaced by Commissioner of Social Services Martin Brown after it came to light that adding sexual orientation to protected status would have been in conflict with existing federal and state law, and the Virginia Marriage Amendment. The attorney general's office issued a letter to the board informing it of the conflict and, acting on that advice, as well as public comment, the commissioner made the appropriate changes.

At the board meeting, representatives from The Family Foundation, the Virginia Catholic Conference, Catholic Charities of Arlington, the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, America World Adoption and Bethany Christian Services testified against the original proposal that would have forced faith-based adoption agencies to either ignore their faith principles regarding marriage and sexual behavior or stop serving families and children. Organizations that serve children and families provided particularly compelling testimony. Andrew Brown, of America World Adoption, said that making sexual behavior a protected class would decrease the number of loving families available to adopt wanted, parentless children by forcing faith-based adoption agencies out of business.

However, the vote did not come without debate, beginning this morning with a failed motion to postpone the vote until August and ending late today with arguments by proponents of the sexual orientation language that they had not had enough time to review the new regulations. Representatives of Equality Virginia, the Gay Community Center of Richmond, Mothers and Others, and other groups argued that faith-based organizations should not be allowed to "discriminate" by following their beliefs. But homosexuals in Virginia can adopt — they must go through state or non-faith-based private agencies.

The most vocal proponent of homosexual protections was social services board member Trudy Brisendine, who made the argument that she had not had time to review the new regulations. This despite the fact that the previous proposal had been initiated by outgoing Governor Tim Kaine in December of 2009 and that regulations had been open for public comment since January. She asked, embarrassingly, at one point how a "child placing agency" is defined, requiring the board's legal counsel to point out that the definition was on page two of the proposal. It is certainly concerning that someone who has the power to vote on regulations that oversee “child placing agencies” doesn't know how they are defined or had not read the proposal thoroughly to know the term was defined — and at the beginning of the proposal no less. While her lack of preparation most likely won't make the news, imagine if that question came from a pro-family board member.

We thank the seven board members who voted correctly, the McDonnell administration and the attorney general for their attention to this matter, Commissioner Brown, and our pro-family partners who have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks on this important issue.

Full Senate To Vote On Sexual Orientation Bills

Today, the Senate General Laws Committee considered two bills that are high priorities of the homosexual lobby in Virginia. One, SB 747, would add sexual orientation to the state's hiring policy of non-discrimination. In an 8-7, straight party line vote, the committee reported the bill to the full Senate. Testimony in favor of the bill varied from the usual members of Equality Virginia and homosexual state employees, to the Virginia Education Association (is this about educating "the children"?), a member of the AFL-CIO board and a Universalist Unitarian minister who stated that she represented, "I hope, all reasonable religions."  

Please click here to contact your Senator and urge him or her to vote no on SB 747! 

According to the Washington Post on October 30, 2009:

. . . state government, in which a 110,000-strong workforce undoubtedly includes thousands of homosexuals. ...

If testimony were to be taken at face value, one would believe that our state government operates under a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, where each of those thousands of employees would be fired when their orientation is discovered. However, no such policy exists and the facts confirm this. 

According to the Department of Human Resource Management, which tracks allegations of discrimination, from 1992 forward there have been 24 registered complaints based on sexual orientation. Among these 24 complaints in an 18-year period, not all complaints can be assumed to be founded. From July 1, 2009-March 9, 2010 three complaints of sexual orientation discrimination were filed, but as the March date, none were deemed "founded." Should this bill be successful, it would be the first time in Virginia history that sexual orientation would be elevated to a protected class in the law.    Thankfully, the committee did have the sense to defeat an even more comprehensive bill on sexual orientation non-discrimination. The bill, SB 797, would have added sexual orientation to Virginia's Human Rights Act, and in doing so, would potentially force faith-based organizations, religious daycare centers and schools to hire homosexuals against their conscience. While proponents claimed this would simply be a policy statement by the Commonwealth, everyone knows policy statements turn into judicial decisions, administrative regulations, and lead to future more detailed laws. The bill failed on a 7-7 vote, with Senator Chuck Colgan (D-29, Manassas) not voting.

Thanks, But No Thanks

So the fissure between some in the "Tea Party" movement and "social conservatives" continues to fester beneath the surface of American politics, revealing itself periodically, but not quite coming to a boil — yet. Yesterday, Politico ran a story about a letter sent by GOProud, a homosexual activist group, some tea party leaders and various bloggers, urging Republican leaders in Washington to avoid putting forward any legislation on those nasty little  social issues the Tea Party seems so bent on ignoring. Focus, they say, solely on limiting government. 

Mitch Daniels, your office is calling.

Truce. Let's bury the hatchet for a while and just focus on the issues where we agree. We'll get back to the "divisive social issues" later. There are more important things to deal with. 

We've heard it all before.

Now, there are many possible responses to this foolish line of thinking, not the least of which is the polling that shows an overwhelming majority of tea partiers as socially conservative, and the fact that pro-life and pro-marriage candidates dominate the class of new Congressmen that will arrive in Washington in January — many of whom ran campaigns that touted their socially conservative leanings. 

But you know all that already. 

I have some other reactions (not all printable!). For instance, this truce that's being pushed, does it include, say, GOProud's friends at the Human Rights Campaign and their state chapters like Equality Virginia? Or Planned Parenthood? Or NARAL? Will they cease and desist from pushing their agenda's during the "truce"? No more coming to the government for grants? No more money to Planned Parenthood? No more attempts to legislate same-sex marriage? 

Yea, that's what I thought. So we're being asked to just play defense? Sorry, I'll pass.

And why can't we focus on more than one issue at a time? Is it really that difficult? Honestly, social conservatives, who are also overwhelmingly fiscally conservative, have no problem working on lowering taxes and decreasing the enormity of government at the same time they seek to restore some ethical standards that once under-girded our culture. Is it so bad that our politicians can't think about two issues at once?

Don't answer that.

Frankly, this whole debate is wearing thin. News flash: social issues aren't going away. They aren't going away because for a large segment of the electorate, on both the left and the right, these issues matter. They matter a lot. They matter to those of us who believe that strong, stable, two parent families will reduce poverty a lot faster than any government program. They matter to those of us who understand that losing 50 million people from the population since abortion was made legal has had a $35 trillion negative impact on our economy (not to mention the fact that those are 50 million human beings we're talking about!). They matter to those of us who understand that our freedom to say what we believe and exercise our faith in the public square is threatened by the relentless march of secularism.

So no, I won't be joining any truce. The Family Foundation isn't joining any truce. We aren't going away. No matter how badly some in the "Tea Party" wish we would.

Virginia News Stand: May 12, 2010

Annotations & Elucidations The Double Stack Edition

The News Stand was off yesterday so the news got stacked up. So much of it is interesting, we piled it all on today. In the commonwealth, Governor Bob McDonnell appointed another Democrat to his administration. Huh? At least this latter is explainable (we think): He appointed Larry Wilder, the son of former governor and Richmond Mayor Doug, as an advisor on convicts' re-entry into society. On the merits, Mr. Wilder has a certain perspective, given his past problems with the law. But more likely, the cynic would suggest, is that this might just have something to do with the former Democrat governor's weighty non-endorsement of Creigh Deeds last fall.

The governor also is busy trying to line up tolls I-95 on the North Carolina border. Anything but a "tax increase." Meanwhile, he appointed a commission to reform state government and suggest how it can operate more efficiently. Commissions come and go in Virginia. The jury will remain out on this until we see recommendations actually put into place and the ensuing positive results. Speaking of juries, Chief Justice Leroy Hassell, Sr., will resign from the top judicial spot, but remain on the court. The justices elect the chief justice themselves.  

Also in state, a sensattional trial finally is set to begin. Sensational, because Joseph Price, a co-defendant, is the former president of Equality Virginia, something the Washington Post conveniently fails to mention in its reporting.

Nationally, it's all going on: The Mojave Desert Cross, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled legal two weeks ago, was stolen; senior citizens in a group home in Georgia were told they could not pray out loud before meals because the home accepted federal funds (Yes! Federal funds means no free speech, now sit down and shut-up granny!); a senior House Democrat lost renomination in West Virginia to a challenger from the right; and a poll shows Utah Republicans may throwout U.S. Senator Orin Hatch next, after refusing to renominate his colleague Robert Bennett last weekend.

But we're not close to done, with a big Surprise! coming from Washington — health care reform will cost $115 billion more than estimated just a couple of months ago! Also, a bill in Congress would allow states to veto offshore drilling, something with implications for the Old Dominion; and, in the rare good news from D.C., President Obama seeks a line item veto and the Senate votes to audit at least some of the Fed (see Richard Olivastro's commentary on this issue as well).

News

Va. Chief Justice Hassell to yield leadership post (The Daily Press)

McDonnell has high expectations for reform panel (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Delegate criticizes McDonnell choice for chairman of government-reform panel (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Public input sought on government reform (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Va. seeks tolls on I-95 near N.C. border (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

McDonnell proposes tolls on Interstate 95 in Virginia near N.C. border (Washington Post)

Cuccinelli on Kagan: Not a fan, but lack of judicial experience not the issue (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Conspiracy trial in Robert Wone killing set to start (Washington Post)

Abortion opponents present petition to Va. Beach (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

McDonnell appoints Wilder's son as special assistant for re-entry education (Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog)

Optometrist wins GOP nod in Chesterfield (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

LU officials to investigate Caner’s background claims (Lynchburg News & Advance)

National News

Thieves Steal Mojave Desert Memorial Cross in Nighttime Heist (FoxNews.com)

Senior citizens told they can't pray before meals (Rome, Ga. News-Tribune)

Voters' anti-establishment mood bites both parties (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Poll: Roughly half wouldn't vote for U.S. Sen. Hatch (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Health overhaul law potentially costs $115B more (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Bill would allow states to veto offshore drilling (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Senate votes to examine Federal Reserve lending (AP/GOPUSA.com)

New force for broad immigration reform: conservative evangelicals (CNN.com)

Abortion could be sleeper issue in Supreme Court confirmation process (Washington Post)

Obama to Seek Line-Item Veto Power to Trim Spending From Bills (New York Times)

Michael Steele defends spending to RNC state party leaders during meeting (Washington Post)

Despite Content Purge, Pornographic Images Remain on Wikimedia (FoxNews.com)

Analysis

Reagan-Hating Kagan(Brent Bozell/GOPUSA.com)

Change Watch: Elena Kagan–Supreme Court Nominee (FRCBlog.com)

Commentary

A 'Duty to Die'? (Thomas Sowell/GOPUSA.com)

Michelle Obama: Food Profiteer Turned Food Cop (Michelle Malkin/GOPUSA.com)

Cut Spending Today To Save Tomorrow (Tony Blankley/GOPUSA.com)

Should the Fed Be Audited? (Richard Olivastro/GOPUSA.com)

Family Foundation Response To Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive On "Sexual Orientation"

The following is an excerpt from a statement I released today concerning Governor Bob McDonnell's recent "Executive Directive" regarding "sexual orientation." For the full statement, including several examples of "sexual orientation" conflicting with religious liberty, click here. For a PDF of the entire statement, click here. Below, you will find links to sourced research studies, a legal analysis and an action item.

Response to Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive No. 1 

The reactions to Governor Bob McDonnell's recent decision to issue an "Executive Directive" that includes "sexual orientation" as a protected class in his administration's hiring decisions have been varied. While some, including the Commonwealth’s largest homosexual political group, Equality Virginia, who advocated for the policy change, have praised the Governor, they have also expressed disappointment that the Directive didn’t go far enough. Others have questioned why the Governor issued the Directive at all. Many are confused about its implications.

News outlets that increasingly have less print space for substance, only address the surface-level point of "discrimination." It is not acceptable, however, for thoughtful, forward-looking policy organizations to limit their review of the Directive in this manner.

At issue is not, in fact, the simple question of whether the Directive's undefined label of "sexual orientation" disqualifies one for a state job or requires special compensation/treatment in state employment. Instead, nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation, whether enshrined in law or implemented through internal constructs, and regardless of their legal weight, highlight the inevitable and unavoidable clash between the unalienable fundamental right of religious liberty and the postmodern era of sexual freedom. It is a clash that isn't taking place simply in the realm of ideas, but in courtrooms across the country, affecting the lives of everyday Americans. Potentially, there is no greater threat to our Constitutionally protected right of conscience, and as importantly the right to exercise our faith publicly, than that of the continued advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) "rights."

And perhaps no one has put this battle more succinctly and honestly than respected Georgetown University Law professor, lesbian, LGBT activist and Obama nominee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai Feldblum, who stated:

There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases sexual liberty should win. I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.

Those who advocate for the advancement of sexual behavior protections in our law have little or no room for those who have religious convictions on those issues. In her paper, Moral Conflict and Liberty: Gay Rights and Religion, Feldblum, who authored the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), argues quite openly that it is the primary goal of the LGBT political movement to elevate (either through legislation or the courts) homosexual orientation to moral equivalence with heterosexual orientation and to do so at the cost of religious liberty.

She admits in her assessment of the clash that, "we are in a zero-sum game: a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side," but "in making the decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the [sexual] liberty of LGBT people."

* * * * * *

In responding to Governor McDonnell's Directive granting protection to LGBT people seeking employment or who are currently employed in his administration, Kent Willis of the ACLU takes Feldblum's statements to their logical conclusion:

We hope this is only the beginning, and that the Governor's example will inspire legislators to finally pass a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in both private and public sector employment. [Emphasis added]

Willis' may be the most honest statement thus far. As both Willis and Feldblum clearly articulate, there is no religious liberty interest that can withstand the interest of LGBT people to self-identify and express their identity publicly.

» To contact the Governor and express your concerns about his decision, please click here.

» For more on the potential legal ramifications of Governor McDonnell's Directive, click here for Alliance Defense Fund's analysis.

» For more information on the impact of nondiscrimination policies on traditional marriage laws and amendments click here for a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder.

» For more information on the impact of same sex marriage on religious liberty click here for a Heritage Foundation Backgrounder.

Governor McDonnell's Executive Directive

Late Wednesday afternoon, amidst growing tensions on college campuses, Governor Bob McDonnell issued a "Governor’s Directive," ordering those in the executive branch not to discriminate in their hiring practices (see here). His directive specifically referenced "sexual orientation." Governor McDonnell issued his directive in an apparent effort to ease the hostile atmosphere on our campuses and in the General Assembly. Four years ago, then-Attorney General McDonnell challenged Governor Tim Kaine’s executive order that added sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination policy, saying he didn’t have the authority to do so. It is still unclear exactly what legal weight, if any, a directive has, but media reports indicate that it does not have the same force of law of an executive order.

Much of the anger among college students has been generated by those who are supposed to be in authority at those schools — college presidents and administrators — who have criticized the advisory letter Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent them last week. The letter stated that public colleges and universities with anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation are in conflict with state law. Instead of providing leadership, the college presidents and administrators have provoked anger and outrage with inflamed rhetoric.

A media backlash also was fed by heated and often mean-spirited rhetoric by a handful of General Assembly members, including Senator Donald McEachin (D-9, Henrico) who, in a floor speech earlier this week, referenced Governor McDonnell’s graduate school thesis, yelling on the Senate floor, "We are being governed by the thesis!" Joining in the daily diatribes were Delegate David Englin (D-45, Alexandria) and Delegate Joe Morrissey (D-74, Henrico). It was often insinuated that anyone who disagrees with adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy is hateful and bigoted. But truth has been difficult to find in this debate.

In addition, some legislators made the outrageous claim that, without a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation, Virginia is not "business friendly" and would not be able to attract new jobs. But several publications and organizations currently recognize Virginia as the best state in America to do business without having this policy.

Nonetheless, yesterday morning, Senator Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg), in a clear conflict of interest as an employee of the College of William and Mary, one of the colleges expressing outrage over the AG’s letter, amended an economic development bill introduced by the Governor with: "The Commonwealth of Virginia maintains an ecumenical atmosphere in its sexual orientation hiring policies in the private and public workforce."

Besides being a bizarre statement, it is a frightening overreach into the private workplace, which would include religious-based ministries and churches. Fortunately, on the floor of the Senate — because of the Governor’s directive — Senator Norment removed his amendment from the bill.

The Family Foundation has and continues to maintain that there is no need for special protections for homosexuals. As the issue was thoroughly debated and voted on multiple times throughout this year’s General Assembly, no evidence of discrimination was presented.

We absolutely agree with one statement in Governor McDonnell’s directive — that state employment should be based on "qualifications, merit and performance," regardless of one’s immutable or unimmutable characteristics.

Over the next several days, we will consult with experts to determine the legal ramifications of this directive, but we are concerned when the Governor’s action is being heralded as a step forward by the ACLU and the state’s largest homosexual lobby, Equality Virginia (Pilot on Politics).

In a statement, Kent Willis of the ACLU said, "We hope this is only the beginning, and that the Governor's example will inspire legislators to finally pass a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in both private and public sector employment."

Any thought that the groups and organizations behind this effort will stop at public employment is naive. It is very clear that they want to force private businesses — including churches — to abide by their morality.

More On The Cuccinelli Opinion: Hear The (Sort Of) Debate From WRVA

This morning on Richmond's Morning News With Jimmy Barrett on WRVA-AM, Family Foundation Vice-President for Policy and Communications Chris Freund was interviewed about the legal opinion issued by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the reaction to it. It wasn't a real debate, but immediately prior to Chris' appearance, Barrett's guest was Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, the lead lobbyist for Equality Virginia. Notice that she avoided Barrett's first question and, shall we say, gave an intriguing spin on the entire matter at hand. In fact, you can detect the skepticism in Barrett's voice and questions. Chris sets the record straight his turn at bat.

Click here to listen to the back-to-back interviews (9:24).

Respond To Governor Kaine's Same-Sex Benefits Proposal

Winning elections is one thing. But the real work is the constant vigil to ensure that those who got elected follow through on their promises and platforms. With a sweep of pro-family statewide officials and a wider majority in the House of Delegates after November’s election, it would be easy to sit back and watch. However, late last week Governor Tim Kaine (contact), already intent on creating mischief  for the incoming administration by proposing tax increases in the new budget he will introduce before he exits office, lobbed a grenade into the room when he announced his intention to expand health care benefits for state employees to include not only same-sex partners, but anyone living in a house with a state worker. A peculiar legacy indeed, but he's leaving office as he came in — promoting tax increases and special rights for homosexuals just as he did in his first week in office, despite campaigning to the contrary. Already, the state’s largest homosexual "rights" lobby, Equality Virginia, is actively promoting the change.

While expanding benefits to same-sex relationships is a clear violation of the Marriage Amendment passed by Virginia voters just three years ago, it is obvious that Governor Kaine has no intention to abide by it. Currently, only spouses and children are eligible for state health care benefits. Because these types of benefits have traditionally been "benefits of marriage," expanding beyond marriage violates both the spirit and the language of the Marriage Amendment. Health benefits have been tied to marriage for decades because the state understands it has a compelling interest in benefitting and encouraging marriage —ultimately because children benefit the most from marriage. As the vast majority understood in 2006 when 2.1 million of us voted in favor of the Marriage Amendment, we need to protect and elevate traditional marriage for our children’s sake.

Attempts at expanding this beyond marriage makes any and all relationships equal to marriage, thereby undermining that foundational institution. Interestingly, the "Notice of Intended Regulatory Action Agency Background Document" that announces the regulation change makes several astonishing claims, such as saying the proposal "should have little impact on the family or family stability."

Really? By allowing non-married couples the identical benefits as those who are married, does that not make marriage less necessary? The notice also claims that the only "alternative" to the proposal is nationalized health care, such as the current Congressional proposals.

Kaine’s plan, as proposed, borders on the ludicrous. It would seemingly allow a recent college graduate who gets a job with the state to add any and all of his or her housemates to his or her health insurance.

One of the most influential proponents of this type of domestic partner benefits has been the presidents of Virginia’s taxpayer funded colleges and universities, claiming that they can’t bring qualified professors to our college campuses because other states offer such benefits. Yet, only 16 other states currently offer such benefits.

While the proposed benefit expansion will ultimately be decided upon by Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, who expressed reservations about it due to possible costs, proponents of the policy claim that there will be no cost to the state. However, such an expansion of benefits, certainly will increase the cost of health insurance for the state and consequently, Virginia taxpayers.

But don't think you can't do anything about this: There is a public comment period until midnight December 23, where the Department of Human Resources Management is seeking your opinion.

Please contact the Department of Human Resources Management by clicking here. 

Once on the site, click "Enter a comment" and express your opposition to Governor Kaine’s proposal.

Virginia News Stand: November 11, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations "Stylistic" Election Coverage

The Communications Department didn't come up with much from conventional news sources today, but I dug around and found, in of all places, in-depth election coverage and post mortems from Richmond's too-old-to-be-hip-anymore weekly freebie, Style Weekly, which now delves into the business of the serious. It's done a decent job, too. Of particular interest are the hat-tips to Republicans by Democrat guru-strategist Paul Goldman and the whining of Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Equality Virginia's lobbyist. University of Richmond Professor Daniel Palazzolo harangues Governor Tim Kaine and Scott Bass gets about half of it right. It's funny when liberals try to manipulate conservative mandates by telling us what they want the results to mean is fact, and then fratricidally turn on themselves (a sure sign that their interpretation of the results is a disingenuous attempt to water down the victory).

Elsewhere, Republican Ron Villanueva was declared the winner in the closest House of Delegates race, but it's only one step toward resolution, and will go on still longer, for sure. Attorney General Bill Mims is doing what all former attorneys general do (especially those who fill out a term of an elected one), and that is sign on with a big bucks power law law firm, while Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spottsylvania) makes the news for the second day on the trot, describing a dour picture of state funding to localities. Nationally, the Washington Post reports that pro-abortion activists are trying to muzzle the free speech rights of pro-life clinics and information centers.

News:

Misaligned: How Virginia Democrats overestimated the power of Obama and underestimated the importance of independent voters. (Style Weekly)

Villanueva declared winner in 21st District race (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Houck paints dire budget picture to city and Spotsy (Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

Attorney General to join Hunton and Williams (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Kaine Takes a Hike (Style Weekly)

National News:

Disclaimer proposed for anti-abortion clinics (Washington Post)

Analysis:

McDonnell, Picture Perfect (Paul Goldman/Style Weekly)

Presumptive Politics (Paul Goldman/Style Weekly)

McDonnell's Power Surge (Scott Bass/Style Weekly)

Democratic Downers (Margaret Edds/Style Weekly)

Commentary:

Shilling For Bob (Claire Guthrie Gastañaga/Style Weekly)

Losing Legacy (Daniel Palazzolo/Style Weekly)

Editorial Comics:

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Glenn Foden/Townhall.com)

"A Year Later . . ." (Scott Stantis/Townhall.com)

comic 4comic 3

The Homosexual Agenda Creates A Thriving Economy?

By the way, it never ceases to amaze me that the homosexual lobby thinks same-sex marriage and its other agenda items are necessary for a thriving economy. See the first bullet point in the Equality Virginia news release announcing its endorsement of Democrat Creigh Deeds for governor, where EV's Jon Blair says:

To attract the best public and private employees, Virginia must be welcoming of diversity and avoid discriminatory practices. Anything else hurts employers and employees, stifles economic growth, and limits Virginia’s competitiveness.

Let's see. Virginia has maintained one of the best economies in the country for decades without capitulating to the radical homosexual agenda, and somehow our economy has suffered? Well, then, take it to they guys who've been in charge recently, who say they are on your side — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (not to mention Jerry Baliles), the men Deeds says he wants to tailor himself after (tax increases and all).