Virginia Democrats mistake their legislative control as a mandate for extreme liberal social re-engineering — and it shows where the rest of the party is headed.By Ashley BatemanFEBRUARY 7, 2020
For the first time in 26 years, Virginians voted a Democrat majority into both the state’s House and Senate. Four weeks into the General Assembly, the new majority is voting in laws restricting parents’ rights, removing religious protections, and disturbing rights traditional to Virginians.
“The aggressive onslaught of hostile legislation is new this year,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia. “Virginia has never even had a public policy discussion about forcing sexual orientation gender identity ideology on the private sector until Democrats gained power in November. In the case of abortion, we fought narrow repeals of abortion law in the past, but it wasn’t until this year that anyone seriously entertained a constitutional amendment addressing the right to abortion.”
With Gov. Ralph Northam’s backing, Virginia passed the so-called Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would repeal multiple protections for women and the unborn, remove restrictions on abortions, and dismantle sensible sex separation in bathrooms, locker rooms, jails, and hospitals. It would also allow minors to abort without parental consent, would remove the ultrasound requirement before an abortion, and would make abortion access a legal right through an amendment to the Virginia Constitution.
New Laws Threaten the First and Second Amendments
“Since there is no evidence of discrimination taking place, the purpose of the so-called nondiscrimination proposals is not to protect anyone, it’s to weaponize the government to discriminate against and harass private businesses and faith-based organizations that have deeply held moral or religious beliefs regarding sexuality and marriage,” Cobb said. “These bills will create Jack Phillips baker and Barronelle Stutzman florist cases across our Commonwealth. Already, West Point, Virginia, teacher Peter Vlaming can no longer teach at his public school because his faith did not permit him to bend a knee to transgender ideology.”
Republican state Sen. Amanda Chase, an outspoken advocate for traditional family values, is extremely concerned about First and Second Amendment violations this session.
“The ERA does nothing for true equality of women but uses women as a political pawn to push the liberal agenda,” Chase said on the floor of the assembly.
House Bill 1627 is also of particular concern to Chase. The law would result in aggressive prosecution of any perceived harassment of persons in certain government positions. The bill states, “[C]ertain crimes relating to threats and harassment may be prosecuted in the City of Richmond if the victim is the Governor, Governor-elect, Lieutenant Governor-elect, Attorney General, or Attorney General-elect, a member or employee of the General Assembly, a justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, or a judge of the Court of Appeals of Virginia.”
“If they can pass open-ended laws on what constitutes harassment, then they can also say your freedom to express yourself … your religion, and what you stand for is now considered threatening,” said Philip Search, Chase’s strategic adviser. “That can be any religion that doesn’t agree with the social norm or what the government entity in power dictates.”
Virginian Rights Under Seige
Senate Bill 399 would alter Virginia’s voting system so the state’s Electoral College votes would be awarded to the national popular vote winner. This would further remove Virginia’s autonomy in an election, aligning the state with notoriously far-left states such as California and New York in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Virginia produced the country’s first president, who affirmed the importance of term limits to preserve individual freedoms. In contrast, Northam is working to further his power by increasing the governorship term from four to eight years (SJ 6) and allow the governor to be elected by congressional district majorities versus a majority of votes across the state (SJ 29).
Further corrupting the system, SJ 14 would afford traditional voting rights to convicted felons; SJ 8 would allow those deemed mentally incompetent to vote; and SB 65 would remove the requirement for voters to present photo identification.
A red-flag law relating to guns would eliminate due process in Virginia, allowing law enforcement to search and confiscate firearms from a home based on a citizen’s perceived threat, assuming guilt until proven innocent, Search said. The National Rifle Association released a statement decrying the measure.
Democrats’ private-sector overreach is again evident in SB 635, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Scott A. Surovell, and in HB 526, sponsored by Democratic Del. Kaye Kory. The bills would require private entities, mainly health insurance plans, to cover abortive drugs, contraceptives, sterilization, and some surgical abortions.
Numerous Attacks on Parents’ Rights
Multiple bills place parents in the backseat as the state hands directed authority to state-based agencies — or directly to children.
Democratic Sen. Barbara Favola proposed a bill that would give a minor the authority to receive vaccinations without parental consent. The bill, SB 104, was so widely contested by the public, it was withdrawn before a vote. HB 580, sponsored by Democratic Del. Elizabeth R. Guzman, would alter the language of “abused or neglected child” in state law to include physical or mental injury relating to gender or sexual identification.
Another law, HB 386, introduced by Democratic Del. Patrick A. Hope, would bar health-care professionals from counseling children to identify with their biological sex. The state would prohibit so-called conversion therapy, regardless of parents’ interest in this guidance for their children.
“Parental rights are at stake like never before,” Cobb said. “Bills are gutting parental involvement and consent under the false premise that … government knows [better]. Parents and local community educators and medical experts are the closest to the children affected by these issues and therefore most qualified to develop good approaches based on children’s unique needs.”
Democrats Sneer at Religious Rights
Religion strongly directs decision-making by Virginia adults. Pew Research found 73 percent of Virginians practice the Christian faith, and 60 percent of constituents consider their religion very important. The current legislature, however, is considering numerous laws that would discriminate against such people of faith.
An HB 1051 clause repeals provisions that allow social service agencies to abide by religious or moral policies in placing children. Agencies would no longer be able to choose foster or adoptive parents in heterosexual homes without being called “discriminatory” against homosexual couples. Loud opposition to HB 1051 resulted in the sponsor’s request to halt its advancement.
Organizations like Catholic Charities, contributing to the placement of adoptive children, would be forced to shut down numerous operations in compliance with Catholic beliefs.
House Bill 521 would repeal tax-credit scholarships in the state, education scholarships that particularly benefit low-income families by allowing them to choose a school other than their zoned public school, based on discrimination against faith-based private institutions. The bill was carried over until next year at the sponsor’s request.
Civil Rights for the Unborn, Elderly, and Ill
On Jan. 28, an omnibus abortion bill proposed in the House passed 52-45. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke a 20-20 tie in the Senate, voting in favor of the bill. Fairfax is a self-proclaimed Catholic, although the Catholic Church in the state has been the loudest organized religious voice in opposition to these life-ending bills.
HB 980 and SB 733 passed in the following days, expanding the practice of performing abortions to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse midwives. The bills remove the requirement for a woman to see her unborn child on an ultrasound, and lower standards for abortion facilities by removing some regulations.
Another bill introduced this week, HB 1649, would legalize physician-assisted suicide in Virginia.
A Minority Speaking for the Majority
As reported, 22,000 Virginians marched on the Capitol in Richmond in defense of the right to bear arms. Thousands more are expected to swarm the Capitol for the Virginia March for Life Feb. 13. Virginians will need more than marches to counter elected officials and a far-left governor representing the views of a radical minority.
“Sadly, the Democrats mistake their election as a mandate for extreme liberal social re-engineering,” Cobb said. She continued:
Seven thousand votes statewide gave the Democrats power in the House of Delegates. As recently as December, a Mason Dixon poll showed only 15 percent of Virginians support abortion up and until the moment of birth. Much of the abortion policy they remove has been long-standing, well-supported, reasonable restrictions in place for nearly 20 years. Mandating transgender use of bathrooms and locker rooms statewide counters strong general consensus that localities want the freedom to make these difficult decisions in a way that involves community input.
Not only did the majority of Virginians vote against their own interests, multiple seats were left uncontested. “Democrats were able to take that extra funding to focus money on key races and not disperse it,” Search said. “I think next go around there will be a Republican running in every seat.”
“A lot of Virginians are starting to wake up, and there is a massive wave of people who are getting upset about this who are typically not integrated; we saw it at the Capitol,” Search said. “They are concerned about how their children will grow up.”Ashley Bateman is a writer, teacher, and mother of three who lives in Virginia.Photo Skip Plitt/C’ville Photography/Wikimedia Commons