The following article is by Eddy Aliff of VAIB:
The focus of this week was the budget, but all committees continue to meet to vote on the remaining bills. In some cases, new amendments have popped up or one chamber preferred its bill to that of the other chamber creating the need for a committee of conference to hammer out a compromise
Probably the most challenging area has been the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) bills. Each side has at times painted dramatically different possible outcomes if these bills pass. Some who sponsor these bills say, “These bills will do nothing different than what has been happening in Virginia as a result of the governor’s executive orders.” Some opposing the bills say, “Churches will be forced to hire or accept into our churches those who do not adhere to our biblical values.”
Both of these statements are probably wrong. These bills definitely do more that the current status quo, and churches will be likely be allowed to adhere to their biblical values when it comes to operating their church and related ministries. Much of the practical outcomes of this legislation remains open to interpretation (and who does the interpreting.)
What we know for certain about these bills, however, should concern people of faith:
- For the first time, private businesses would not be able to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity along with the other categories listed.
- For the first time, those who claim being discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity could sue for unlimited damages and the Attorney General of Virginia could join in the suit bringing a fine against you (if you are found guilty).
- For the first time, the definition for a protected class would become fluid and open to broad interpretation.
These are serious concerns. Who knows what any given judge will decide? As political activist and former commissioner for the EEOC, Chai Feldblum stated, “There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win . . . I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
So far, HB1663 and HB1049 have been put on hold in the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology. Those opposed to these bills gave convincing testimony that these bills need clear language protecting religious institutions. Some committee members agreed and were able to postpone these bills to next week to determine if amendments were needed to address these concerns.
SB868 is already in the House chamber, but it too has been placed on hold in the House, waiting to see if such amendments are needed in this bill. Pray for God to move in members of the House and Senate to clearly see the need for amendments to protect religious institutions which hold to biblical values in contradiction to those who want to protect sexual orientation and gender identity.
You should know that a similar bill, HR 5, passed the US House of Representatives and is now in the US Senate. Fortunately, majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has made it clear that this bill will not be considered by the Senate, which is his prerogative. This is a battle being fought across our nation, with about half of the states having laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
People deserve the freedom to work and live without fear of persecution. Our desire is to freely exercise our faith without persecution That is the primary goal of VAIB. Pray that this issue can be resolved to achieve freedoms on both sides.
This General Assembly session ends in two weeks. Thank you for your prayers and support of VAIB.