code of Virginia

Taking A Stand

On Monday afternoon, the House of Delegates passed a bill by a vote of 65-32 that would give legislators "standing" in federal court to defend the laws of the Commonwealth not defended by the attorney general. The bill, HB 706, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), was introduced well before the unprecedented decision by Attorney General Mark Herring to not only not defend Virginia's Marriage Amendment, but to join the case in opposition to the commonwealth. During floor debate, Democrats continued to misrepresent Attorney General Herring's actions, claiming that it is similar to that of former Attorneys General who did not defend a state law. But in those cases, as is customary in Virginia, the attorneys general in question appointed outside counsel to represent the state; otherwise, the governor appointed counsel. The Code of Virginia allows the attorney general to refuse to defend a law where there is a conflict of interest or economic considerations, and is not unusual.

What is unusual is an attorney general who refuses to defend the state constitution, refuses to appoint outside counsel and, further, joins the case in opposition to the constitution. That's unprecedented. Since Governor Terry McAuliffe refuses to act as well, Virginians are without statewide counsel. It's akin to a defense attorney refusing to defend his client and, instead, walks across the aisle and joins the prosecutor. It's dereliction of duty, purposefully negligent and unethical.

No Democrat during the debate, or anyone anywhere for that matter, has yet pointed to a case where this has ever happened. House Democrats refused even to acknowledge a difference between not defending a law and joining the plaintiff's lawsuit against the commonwealth.

Joining the Democrats in misrepresenting the actions of Attorney General Herring are most of Virginia's newspaper editorial boards. The lack of objective and clear reporting on the issue reveals not simply partisanship, but a pathological obsession with advancing the cause of same-sex marriage at any cost. Apparently, attacking Virginians as hateful bigots simply because they believe that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman for the benefit of children isn't enough; secular liberals in office and on the editorial pages have to lie about anything related to the issue as well.

Luckily, some are standing up for the rule of law. A Washington Post op-ed from Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers makes a compelling case for attorneys general defending laws they view as unjust because in their role as chief legal officer of states, they shouldn't have "litigation veto" over laws legally adopted.

Photo: Attorney General Herring, defend our laws!</p><br />
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<p>For more ways to contact AG Herring, visit www.familyfoundation.org/ag_marriage

Mark Herring: Upholds his hand, but not the Virginia Constitution.

Pro-Lifers Rally, Board Adopts Regulations!

The Virginia Board of Health Friday voted to adopt strong abortion center safety standards after a long day of competing protests, debate and tension. An estimated crowd of 500 people lined up at the building where the board met, evenly divided between pro-life Virginians and abortion supporters. It was a stark contrast to the June meeting where more than 100 abortion protestors dominated the day and where the board voted to water down abortion center regulations to exempt existing centers from important building standards required by the Code of Virginia. Because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify those regulations — they didn't meet the demands of the code — the board had to revisit the issue Friday. For weeks both pro-life and pro-abortion groups encouraged people to attend, and hundreds did, in addition to several dozen uniformed and plain clothes police who where there to ensure security.

The day began early, as Family Foundation staff began lining up outside the building at 6 a.m. to ensure we would be in the meeting room to testify. Only 100 seats were available in the room, and only those in the room could testify. After going through security checks, including metal detectors, we settled into the room for a long day.

The difference between this meeting and the one in June was remarkable. That day, the room was dominated by radical pro-abortion protestors and, quite honestly, it was a very spiritually dark day. Friday was radically different. In the room were dozens of pro-life supporters, including several pastors. Those who attended both meetings could feel the difference in the atmosphere. A few pastors who attended our Pastors Summit in Richmond Thursday were there, as were several from the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists.

We could feel the prayers of pastors and pro-life Virginians! I cannot express enough of my gratitude for all of you who attended today's meeting, or who prayed for us. The support was incredible, and I have no doubt it made an impact on the results. During a year where elected officials and others have been viciously attacked by the abortion industry and media, and abortion supporters have mobilized in large numbers, pro-life Virginians needed to show up and prove again that we are the dominant voice in Virginia . . . and show up we did!

Public testimony was extended to one hour (normally 20 minutes) in an attempt to accommodate the crowd. In my testimony, I told the board that after the uncovering last week of more than 80 health and safety violations in nine abortion centers, the industry, which has claimed for years to be safe and in no need of oversight, was not in a position to be trusted and therefore should have no say in how it is regulated. Several other pro-life organizations also testified including the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists, Family Research Council and the Rutherford Institute. Others attending included the Virginia Society for Human Life, Students For LifeAmericans United for Life and Concerned Women for America Virginia. Our special thanks to Alliance Defending Freedom, which sent a letter to members earlier this week to clarify the board's legal authority and to other groups who encouraged the turnout.

In addition, Delegate Kathy Byron (R-22, Lynchburg) testified that the General Assembly did not intend to exempt any abortion centers. In 2011, Delegate Byron amended SB 924 to include abortion centers. She said that during the legislative debate, the intent was clear and that the bill was passed by chambers controlled by different parties. Her testimony was crucial to clarify some misunderstanding on the board over whether the General Assembly wanted existing abortion centers to be "grandfathered in" without the building standards. We so appreciate Delegate Byron's willingness to once again stand up for life in a hostile atmosphere, as she did time and again during this year's General Assembly.

Representatives of the abortion industry continued their pattern of deception. Incredibly, one person testified that the industry “supports regulations” but just opposed the building standards. The same individual has testified several years in a row at the General Assembly against bills that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment!

They also attacked The Family Foundation's release this week of inspection records showing widespread health and safety violations, saying that the centers inspected had received their licenses anyway and that the violations were minor. We don't consider a bloody patient table minor. We don't consider a freezer two-thirds filled with fetal remains and blood minor! But they do. The fact is, however, that those centers were not licensed until after they submitted plans to correct the violations and those centers are now subject to unannounced inspections. For years, they fought against the very inspections they now say they support and that uncovered the problems listed.

But the primary target of the abortion industry was, and still is, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. They continued their assault because he made the decision to uphold the law of Virginia and not certify the regulations in June. Of course, I'm sure they'd rather pick on the AG and cry "politics" instead of having to answer to questions about bloody patient tables, frozen fetal remains and untrained staffs.

The board, however, was not fooled. By an overwhelming vote of 13-2 it rejected several more attempts by one board member to water down the regulations and then voted to adopt the standards by the same vote.

While a major victory, the process to finalize these standards is not finished. They must go through several more steps in the next several months, including two lengthy public comment periods. It is crucial that pro-life Virginians make their voice heard once again during that time. If you spoke or wanted to speak Friday, please write your comments down and hold on to them for submission during the public comment period. We will provide ample notice.

Thanks again to everyone who attended Friday's meeting, testified or prayed. A special thank you to those post-abortive women who attended, some speaking publicly for the first time. We are so grateful and encouraged by your support, and I know the Board of Health members were as well. To get a feel for what it was like at the meeting, please click here for a series of photos.

Pro-life Virginians were not out manned at the crucial Board of Health Meeting Friday. For more scenes from the historic vote, click here or the image above.

Board Of Health To Vote On Abortion Center Safety Standards Week From Today, Please Plan To Attend

Pro-abortion defenders are demanding that members of the Virginia Board of Health, who might actually have "religious and personal" views on the topic of human life, recuse themselves from voting at next Friday's crucial Board of Health meeting. So please plan to join us Friday at the Board of Health meeting in Richmond. Pro-life Virginians must attend and show that we are the voice of Virginia. The efforts to silence pro-life Virginians is just another example of the radical, secular Left's desperate and relentless attack on religious freedom and our rights as citizens to make decisions according to our faith. Their distorted and fraudulent understanding of America's First Freedom, our right to exercise our faith in the public square, is simply antithetical to all that they are trying to accomplish.

In fact, our own state constitution’s Statute for Religious Freedom makes it clear that we are free to hold religious views and those views cannot "diminish" or affect civil capacities, such as serving on a citizen board, saying:

. . . but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

At June's Board of Health meeting, where radical protesters from MoveOn.org and "Occupy Richmond" turned out in droves, perhaps the most fascinating and oft-repeated testimony by the pro-abortion activists was that the health and safety standards for abortion centers amounted to a "violation of the separation of church and state." Somehow anyone who actually believes that the abortion industry should meet some basic health and safety standards can only do so if they are somehow motivated by their faith, and that if they are, somehow they do not have the same citizenship rights to influence the political process as any other American. The tone of many of the opponents was often very disrespectful and angry, and certainly not "tolerant" of opposing viewpoints.

Unfortunately, some members of the board appeared to be swayed by the arguments of the protestors and voted to water down the proposed safety standards. But the standards are back before the board because Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to approve its decision to change the standards because it is his obligation, under Virginia law, to ensure that they meet all the requirements of the Code of Virginia.

Now, one militant group calling itself "Cooch Watch" is inciting student activist groups around Richmond to attack board members who might actually believe in protecting human life. We anticipate hundreds of college students led by these left-wing groups to protest at the Board of Health meeting next Friday in hopes that they will intimidate the board. They are mobilizing, and have even booked hotel rooms near the board meeting.

We must show the Board of Health that we are pro-life and we are the majority.

Please plan to join us next Friday, September 14. Please forward this link to your pro-life friends and share it on your social media sites. Plan to arrive at the Perimeter Center (9960 Mayland Drive, Richmond, 23233) at 7:30 a.m. to prevent pro-abortion activists from filling the room and silencing your voice. Seating is very limited, so not everyone will be able to get into the meeting. That's why its so important to arrive early. We encourage you to bring a handmade sign showing your support for life. The meeting is scheduled to adjourn at 3:00, so depending on when the vote is held, this may become a day-long event. Please contact us if you have additional questions (804-343-0010 or vafamily@familyfoundation.org).

We must make our voice heard before the radical, secular Left succeeds in silencing the voice of religious Americans!

Great News On School Choice: Virginia's First Charter Elementary School Approved . . . For Now

Congratulations Richmond School Board! You did the right thing and you have our thanks. Last night, after months of wrangling, controversy and approval — only to turn down a flawed contract contrived by the school administration — the board approved by a vote of 5-0 a new, and fair, contract for the Patrick Henry Initiative charter elementary school. The charter elementary school, the first one in Virginia, will emphasize art and science and will be open to all Richmond city elementary school-age students, who must apply for admittance.

Congratulations to Richmond school board member Keith West who carried this to fruition against the greatest of odds and through much travail — he's often outvoted 8-1 — even to the extent of risking no charter school when he killed the first contract because it was a set up for the PHI to fail and thus discredit school choice. But he came back with a new contract and worked with the other board members who conscientiously did the right thing. (West, an education reform and choice advocate, and The Family Foundation, are members of the education reform coalition School Choice Virginia.)

There is one catch to this great news, however, and a big one at that. Notice the vote. Only five of the nine school board members voted. One member was absent, but the other three, who are for the status quo (as if that's working), walked out. (See Richmond Times-Dispatch article here.) Of the five who voted in favor, only two are seeking re-election this November. The next school board could very well vote to cancel the contract — and don't underestimate the power of the teachers union and educrat establishment to protect their monopolistic turf. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.  

In the meantime, we hope the momentum gained from this approval will lead to two things: More charter schools in the commonwealth, now that that other education reformers in Virginia see it is possible. We also hope the General Assembly, in its next session, will update the code of Virginia to allow for an easier, less bureaucratic, less red-tape and less hoop-jumping application process for interested parties willing to create charter schools. These parents and organizations are willing to put themselves under public scrutiny and accountability — something sorely lacking in the teachers union and in many school district central offices — in order to improve educational choice opportunities, competition and excellent education for our children. While they're at it, maybe it can require some of that accountability among the public school educrat establishment.