The third week of the 2016 General Assembly session winds down today, with some major disappointments and a few key victories.

Today, the state Senate, with several Republicans in support, unfortunately passed two bills (vote count for SB 12 and vote count for SB 67) that elevate sexual orientation/gender identity (SOGI) to a protected class, despite no evidence that widespread discrimination is taking place and despite the fact that such legislation weaponizes government to discriminate against people who have an opinion about marriage that is contrary to the government.

SB 12 (D-Ebbin, D-McEachin) adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of “protected classes” within state hiring practices. SB 67 (D-Wexton) adds these same categories to our housing laws.

We have seen case after case around the nation where so-called “anti-discrimination” policies such as this are used to do exactly that, discriminate, but against people with deeply held beliefs about marriage.  Case in point: Atlanta, Georgia fire chief Kevin Cochrane who was fired – not for “discriminatory” action – but for writing his personal, morally based opinion about human sexuality in a book.

In addition, proponents have offered no proof that discrimination is taking place.  In state government, according to the Virginia Department of Resource Management, there have been no cases of proven discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity since 2010.   

The six Republicans who joined all nineteen Democrats to pass the bills were Senators Bill DeSteph (R-8, Virginia Beach), Glen Sturtevant (R-10, Midlothian), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12, Glen Allen), David Suetterlein (R-19, Roanoke), Jill Vogel (r-27, Winchester)and Tommy Norment (R-3, Williamsburg).

On the bright side today, HJ 1, legislation that would put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall to increase the number of Charter Schools in Virginia narrowly passed the House Committee on Privileges and Elections. 

The resolution, patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), would allow public charter school applicants the ability seek approval from the State Board of Education rather than from local school districts, which abhor the competition that would allow parents and students more choice in deciding their educational paths. But competition improves everything, including education.  The bill passed the General Assembly last year but must pass again this year in order to be on the ballot. 

Yesterday, several other bills that we’ve been working on were dealt with in committees.

The Senate version of the “Tebow” bill, SB 612, passed the Senate Education and Health committee on an 8-7 vote.  Patroned by Senator Tom Garrett (R-22, Louisa), and like the House bill that passed that chamber earlier this week, the bill would give home school students the opportunity to try out for their local high school sports team.  In the same Ed and Health meeting, legislation that would have repealed the Informed Consent requirement that a woman be given the opportunity to review an ultrasound prior to an abortion was defeated.  Later, in a House subcommittee, a bill that would have repealed the prohibition on abortion coverage in the “Obama Care” state health care exchange was also defeated.

Several of you have asked about the legislation that was introduced that would have repealed the Commonwealth’s religious exemption for vaccinations.  That bill was “struck” by the patron, meaning that it is dead for this session. 

Thank you again to all who have taken action on issues we’ve emailed you about so far this session.

On that note, you may have noticed that we have changed email alert systems.  Unfortunately, we are still working with the vendors to fix some problems with the system, and the vendor was very late in updating the newly elected legislators.  We continue to work to get the issues resolved.  Thank you for your patience!