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Supreme Court of the United States

This New Virginia Law Looks a Lot Like the Equality Act

By Maureen Collins posted on:
April 28, 2021

With the Equality Act being debated before the Senate, and its recent passage in the House, the possibility of it becoming the law of the land looms closer than ever before. And there’s little doubt that President Joe Biden would sign the “Equality Act” into law—given his campaign promise to do so within the first 100 days if given the chance.

There’s been a lot of talk about what the “Equality Act” would look like in practice.

But there are similar laws in states throughout the country, including one in the blue-leaning state of Virginia. The so-called Virginia Values Act is very similar to the proposed Equality Act. Except the Equality Act would go even further in respect to religious freedom…

How Virginia’s Law is Similar to the Equality Act

In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Values Act—otherwise known as a “SOGI” law because it adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing nondiscrimination laws. And while proponents of SOGI laws claim they help people who identify as LGBTQ, in reality they’re much more complex than that—and much more dangerous.

SOGI laws threaten individuals, business owners, and non-profit organizations that want to live and operate according to their religious beliefs. They also undermine protections for women and girls, forcing them to share private spaces with males and taking away opportunities in athletics and education.

Like the Virginia Values Act, the Equality Act is a SOGI law but at the national level. And the similarities don’t stop there.

1. Both the Virginia Values Act and the Equality Act cover multiple areas of life

Both cover places of public accommodations—such as restaurants, stores, hotels, and other places open to the public at large. But they go further than that. Both the Virginia Values Act and the Equality Act would also add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes to laws covering employment and housing.

2. Neither includes religious protections

Neither the Virginia Values Act nor the Equality Act adequately protects the freedom of faith-based organizations to operate in accord with their religious beliefs.

Virginia’s law and the Equality Act are deliberate attempts to force people of faith—good people who serve everyone—to promote messages and celebrate events that conflict with their sincere beliefs. This includes faith-based organizations that want to hire people who share their beliefs.

For example, two churches, three schools, and a pregnancy center network filed suit in state court to challenge the Virginia Values Act because it is being applied to force these nonprofit ministries to abandon their core convictions in hiring and other contexts or face fines up to $100,000 for each violation.

The law also targets adoption providers that want to place children with a married mother and father, because placing children with unmarried and same-sex couples would violate their religious beliefs. Ultimately, SOGI laws are applied to force people of faith to promote messages with which they disagree.

3. Both the Virginia Values Act and the Equality Act would force creative professionals to create messages that violate their beliefs

Take Bob Updegrove for example. Bob is a photographer based in Virginia. This new state law would force Bob to create photographs celebrating same-sex weddings or stop his wedding business altogether. The law also forbids Bob from publicly explaining his religious reasons for only creating artwork consistent with his beliefs on his business’s own website.

But worst of all, the law threatens Bob with court orders forcing him to create artwork contrary to his faith. If Bob operates his business consistently with his beliefs on marriage, the state could force him to pay damages, attorney’s fees, and fines up to $100,000. These penalties could easily bankrupt Bob.

Bob serves all people, he just doesn’t use his photography to promote all messages. That’s why, to avoid losing his business and facing possible bankruptcy, Bob decided to challenge Virginia’s SOGI law to ensure he could continue to operate his business consistently with his faith.

The Equality Act Would Go Even Further

Virginia is a blue state. Yet when we look at the Virginia Values Act and the Equality Act—which some proponents insist is moderate—the Equality Act goes even further.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Biden, the Equality Act would jeopardize religious freedom in even more areas of life than the Virginia Values Act, including public education, recipients of financial assistance, jury service, credit, and housing.

It would also provide even less of a reprieve for those seeking religious exemptions by specifically excluding individuals from invoking RFRA. Virginia has its own version of the RFRA, yet the Virginia Values Act does not deprive Virginians from appealing to it for protection. At the end of the day, the Equality Act, which has already passed in the House of Representatives, wouldn’t just “nationalize” a SOGI law—it would pose a particularly expansive threat to Americans’ fundamental liberties. That’s why it is imperative that we stand up for these freedoms now, before it’s too late.

Will you commit to standing for the freedoms upon which this nation was founded?

Every generation faces a unique moment when it is called on to protect our God-given rights and the guarantee of liberty enshrined in our Constitution. This is our moment. This is your moment. Today, you can help defend the American promises of life and liberty.

If you believe these American promises are worth defending, please sign the statement.

  • I stand for America’s founding principles: that all men are created equal with inalienable, God-given rights.
  • I stand against any unlawful effort by the Biden administration to restrict my constitutional liberties.
  • I stand for freedom and will join Alliance Defending Freedom to preserve free speech, religious freedom, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and marriage and family.

Maureen Collins

Maureen Collins

Digital Cultivation Manager

Maureen Collins serves as the Digital Cultivation Manager at Alliance Defending Freedom.

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