Two delegates aim to undo protections for LGBTQ students and teachers across the Commonwealth
Del. Bob Marshall, labeled “Sideshow Bob” by the Washington Post, is back for the 2016 GA session with a new bill aiming to undo protections for LGBTQ students and teachers added by some school districts.
HB 385, titled “Discrimination; ordinances or regulations prohibiting,” hopes to amend the state’s code to deny any political subdivision, including a locality or school board to “enact an ordinance or adopt a rule or regulation prohibiting discrimination in any field on any basis not listed in” the state’s Human Rights and Ordinances list.
The HRO list currently includes race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, national origin, age, marital status, or disability, and notably not sexual orientation or gender identity.
A second bill, HB 397, sponsored by Delegate Dave A. LaRock (R – 33), similarly aims to block school districts from adding protections for LGBTQ students and teachers by ALLOWING them to provide protections only to the classes listed in the current HRO.
LaRock’s bill goes a bit further, attempting to define gender and sex as “the basis of the biologic character or quality that distinguishes an individual as either male or female as determined by analysis of the individual’s gonadal, internal and external morphologic, chromosomal, and hormonal characteristics” and “no such policy shall consider the mere separation of individuals by sex to be discrimination.”
In a brief comment the ACLU of Virginia said HB 397 aims to stop transgender students from using the restroom of the gender they currently identify with, however more clarification is still needed.
It’s easy to point to the target of this legislation, school boards around the state, most notably Fairfax County which sits just outside of Marshall’s district, passed protections for LGBTQ students and teachers last year.
Marshall himself showed up for the public school board hearing and spoke out against the added protections. The policy was passed with a 10-1 vote.
Other School Boards, including Virginia Beach and Richmond City Schools, have similar protections for students and teachers.
School boards were emboldened to add these protections after AG Mark Herring released an opinion backing them. In March 2015, he handed down an opinion freeing local school boards from having to follow the GA on adding LGBTQ protections – a dramatic change form an earlier opinion handed down by the conservative former AG Ken Cuccinelli which said the opposite.
Part of Herring’s opinion cites a Supreme Court of Virginia ruling which states “schools boards’ supervisory power necessarily includes derivative powers to regulate “the safety and welfare of students, “to supervise personnel,” and to apply “local policies, rules, and regulations adopted for the day-to-day management of a teaching staff.”
“The Supreme Court of Virginia has been clear that our constitution allows school boards to regulate for the ‘safety and welfare’ of children,” said Herring. ”And the General Assembly has been clear that school boards shall ‘provide that public education be conducted in an atmosphere free of disruption and threat to persons or property and supportive of individual rights.”
“Every Virginian has the right to live, learn, and work without fear of discrimination,” said Herring in a statement released along with the opinion. “That’s a Virginia value, and one that we must guard even more carefully when it comes to our children.”
Marshall’s other anti-LGBTQ bill this session, HB 77, aims to block federal protections added after 2012 which include, according to Blue Virginia, discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender, and an Obama executive order which required federal contractors to have policies banning discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity in their work place.
“Bob Marshall clearly doesn’t understand the way the law works,” said Virginia ACLU Executive Director Clair Gastanaga in an email about HB 77. “He might not like the way federal civil rights laws are being interpreted by the [Equal Employment Commission], the Department of Justice and the courts, but rewriting the state code is a futile attempt to hold back equality and should be rejected.”
The Virginia General Assembly starts next week, GayRVA will be cover this bill as well as others as they come to light.
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