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Many protections for LGBT citizens approved

I hope everyone had a beautiful weekend remembering the crucifixion, death, burial of Christ and of course, celebrating Resurrection Sunday. 

Tommy Wright

For those of us used to celebrating Resurrection Sunday and every Sunday in a church setting, surrounded by friends and family, having to find new ways to worship because of church closing, has been somewhat of a challenge. 

Because of this, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a subject that was very significant during the 2020 General Assembly session.   With the coronavirus pandemic coming to the forefront just as session was ending this year, a lot of the things I had wanted to tell my constituents about had to be pushed to the side.  Of course, there is still nothing more important to me than making sure those I represent have the resources they need to stay safe during these tough times. I do want to keep you informed regarding changes that are coming your way in just a couple of months.

If you happen to follow The Family Foundation, you will know that the most significant and intense battle conservatives in Richmond faced this year was over religious liberty.  The sheer volume and breadth of the legislative initiatives to enshrine the ideologies of “sexual orientation” and ‘gender identity’ (SOGI) into Virginia laws, regulations, local ordinances, and school policies were staggering.  Somewhere around 50 separate bills were submitted to directly advance the LGBTQ agenda, and they got nearly everything they wanted.

The new majority was warned again and again that all of these new laws would inevitably set up endless legal clashes with anyone — but especially people of deep religious faith — who refuses to deny the reality, necessity, and goodness of natural marriage and sexuality, whether in their religious doctrines, conduct, or speech.  Each of these new SOGI laws represents a direct assault on organizations and people of faith who maintain orthodox views on some of the most basic social issues, and they guarantee that targeted lawsuits are soon coming against Christian/Jewish/Muslim churches, schools, and business owners.

Senate Bill 868 is the main SOGI omnibus bill that incorporates “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as specially protected statuses into virtually every part of our law, including in public accommodations, public and private employment, housing, and many other areas. It lacks critical exemptions for religious organizations such as churches, schools, and nonprofit ministries.

House Bill 386 and Senate Bill 245 prevent parents from seeking counseling for their child who may be struggling with their sexual identity or experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions by prohibiting licensed counselors and therapists from helping them in this way.

House Bill 145 and Senate Bill 161 require the Department of Education to develop model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in elementary and secondary schools, which includes bathrooms and locker room use, dress codes, pronoun use, and sex-specific school activities.  It then requires every single school district to adopt policies that go at least as far as the department’s model policies.

All of this legislation and many more was a fulfillment of the promises made in the election campaigns by the new majority and fulfilled during the 2020 General Assembly Session. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many people that wouldn’t usually think of their religious liberties to consider it in an entirely new way.  Many people believe that the government should not be allowed to tell them, under any circumstance, whether or not they should be able to meet and worship.

Regarding the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic, things are continually changing.  Since I wrote last, many of the early predictions made by computer models appear to have overestimated the impact this disaster would have on our health care system. Initial estimates predicted that Virginia would run short of intensive care hospital beds as the wave of illness peaked in May.  The latest data shows, due to numerous actions such as social distancing, Virginia will likely have the resources necessary to care for those who fall ill. Additionally, the number of deaths from COVID-19 should be much lower. This is such encouraging news.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.