More Threats to Religious Freedom Than Ever [General Assembly Update Part 3]Mar 13, 2019
This year we faced a record-setting 32 bills aimed at advancing the “LGBTQ” agenda, which not only has a corrosive effect on the family and society, but always inevitably leads to conflicts with religious liberty and conscience rights. These bills included attempts to add special rights for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) to virtually every area of the law. (e.g. in housing, employment, businesses, public accommodations, health insurance benefit requirements, apprenticeships, hate crimes, assisted conception/surrogacy, etc.)
Numerous bills sought to completely erase distinctions between men and women by making the Code language “gender neutral.” Others sought to: make it virtually effortless for anyone to legally "change" their sex on official documents, establish gender-neutral dress codes for boys and girls in schools, require insurance companies to pay all the costs of a person's [completely unnecessary] "sex reassignment/transition" therapies and surgeries, and scrub all traces of Virginia’s one-man/one-woman marriage statute and Constitutional Amendment from the books.
Incredibly, we helped defeat 31 out of 32 of those efforts to redefine male, female, moms, dads, wives, husbands, and the family as created by God (and self-evident in nature). These bills would have generated serious conflicts with religious liberty, conscience, and privacy rights, while undermining some of society's most basic and fundamental truths. We cannot overstate how big a deal these results are.
Unfortunately, one bill – HB 1979, a profoundly anti-family and anti-life bill – did pass despite our best efforts to convince legislators of its harms. It now awaits the Governor’s expected signature. This legislation, sold as a bill to "fix" some of the "barriers" to assisted conception and surrogacy contracts, signifies a dramatic and harmful policy shift concerning the creation and treatment of human life, the rights of children, the legal basis for parenthood, the significance of marriage, and the dynamics of the parent-child relationship. It was purportedly designed to make it easier for same-sex couples to create children they are otherwise incapable of producing naturally. But the bill went much further than even that by effectively allowing for the commodification of lab-created babies who no longer need to have any genetic tie to either "parent", and also by allowing any unmarried single person to contract with someone to acquire a baby - thus purposely ensuring a child is born without a mother or a father. You can read a more complete overview of the issue on our blog here.
The most important bill this session designed to protect religious freedom was SB 1778 (R-Newman), which sought to protect the free speech and religious exercise rights of counselors as well as the ability of minors struggling with their sexual identity to receive meaningful counseling. (A national movement has dubbed this “conversion therapy.”) While the bill initially prevailed on a vote of the full Senate, it was unfortunately derailed due to an unexpected tactical move the following day, despite the known fact that several state health regulatory boards are planning to prohibit counselors and psychologists from providing this type of counseling. You can read the full story of this bill on our blog here.
Overall, it was a highly successful year on this front, but we do not expect it to get easier from here. Much credit belongs to various members of the House leadership for strategically and courageously heading off the many serious threats to religious liberty and to the very fabric of civil society.