The 2022 Virginia General Assembly session began on Wednesday, January 12th. There are a few bills of concern that we are currently monitoring, as well as bills that we are hopeful for.
The first is a bill proposed by Del. John Avoli, HB 1126, that seeks to address parental rights in multiple areas of the school system. This bill would give parents the ability to access all educational materials and opt their children out of any activity they object to, as well as banning any teaching about systemic racism. It would also have school boards require students and employees access bathrooms, and other facilities, that are shared only with the “same biological sex”. Not only does this undermine the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) model policies, it is also unconstitutional. Title IX and case law in the Fourth Circuit Court protect transgender students’ rights to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, as of August 2020 when the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia teenager who sued his local school board for discriminating against him based on his transgender identity. This decision was further supported in 2021, when the Supreme Court denied the school board’s appeal.
After the 2020 General Assembly, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) created model policies regarding the treatment of transgender students in public schools. These policies used evidence-based practices to address many of the unique struggles transgender students face in schools- including access to bathrooms and locker rooms, gendered dress codes, and bullying. These policies help create a positive and affirming environment for all students. Del. Avoli’s bill is not the only one attempting to roll back these protections. Del. Wyatt and Sen. Heckworth co-sponsored HB 988 and SB 20, which aim to allow school boards to opt out of following these policies.
In 2020 the Virginia Values Act was signed into law, providing comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Del. Adams and Sen. Peake have proposed HB 753 and SB 177, bills that intend to provide sweeping religious exemptions to the Virginia Values Act. The Virginia Values Act already codified religious exemptions, where relevant. If passed, these bills would also negatively impact women, BIPOC, single parents and minority faith communities.
We urge you to take action to protect LGBTQ Virginians.
Equality Virginia has made an easy to use template for contacting your representatives, which you can find here.
Many of these bills will also be heard initially in subcommittee meetings. You can use Equality Virginia’s bill tracker to identify these subcommittees. We want to ensure these subcommittees know that there is support for LGBTQ protections.
If you click on the link for the bill, it will show you the subcommittee that bill will be heard in. Just click on the committee members name to find their e-mail address.
A spreadsheet has also been compiled with detailed information on the subcommittees, and contact information, which you can find here.
Another way to make your voice heard is submitting a virtual public comment. Due to Covid-19 concerns, the House has opened a virtual public comment hub, which you can find here. The link will show you all bills in committee that are available for public comment.
First, you need to click on the relevant committee. HB 1126 can be found in the Education Committee and HB 753 can be found in the General Laws Committee.
Then just scroll until you find the bill and there will be an option to comment on the proposed bill, as well as view other comments.
Protecting LGBTQ Equality
Despite these attempts to roll back protections for LGBTQ Virignians, there is still hope for progress. There are continued efforts to repeal the anti-marriage equality amendment in the Virginia Constitution, which may lead to a public vote in November 2022. Del. Wilet and Del. Filler-Corn have also proposed two bills, HB 353 and HB 717, that would increase access for homeless youth for medical and housing services. LGBTQ youth are over represented in the population of unaccompanied youth so this bill would be hugely beneficial and could allow our Hope House program more room to expand.
Please follow the above steps for taking action to voice your support for these bills. Thank you for helping us support LGBTQ equality in Virginia.
We know the new administration and these attempts to rollback LGBTQ protections can be stressful and anxiety inducing but rest assured federal law is on our side, in support of trans youth. Please know we, at the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, are here to help you. If you need any additional information or support, reach out to us at email@example.com