Attorney General Mark R. Herring is again defending the Virginia Values Act in court, this time in a lawsuit filed in Loudoun County Circuit that seeks to block both “‘the policy of the Commonwealth’ to ‘[s]afeguard all individuals . . . from unlawful discrimination’ in places of public accommodation and employment—including discrimination based on ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity,’ as well as the “newly enacted statute [that] prohibits discrimination in health insurance coverage ‘on the basis of gender identity or status as a transgender individual.” On December 7, Attorney General Herring filed a brief asking the Loudoun County Circuit Court to dismiss the case Calvary Road Baptist Church v. Herring.
“The passage of the Virginia Values Act was a monumental achievement and the Commonwealth became the first southern state to enact these sweeping anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community,” said Attorney General Herring. “We are all Virginians, and we all deserve to be treated fairly and to live free of fear of discrimination just for who we love, what we look like, where we come from or how we worship. I won’t stop defending the Virginia Values Act and all other Virginia anti-discrimination statutes so we can continue to protect Virginia’s LGBT community.”
The lawsuit seeks to block important LGBT anti-discrimination protections passed by the General Assembly this year. The first of these is the Virginia Values Act, which Attorney General Herring explains in the brief, “added ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ to the list of protected characteristics in state anti-discrimination laws” and made it “‘unlawful’ for an employer to ‘[f]ail or refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to such individual’s compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, status as a veteran, or national origin.’” He adds in the brief that, “[t]he Virginia Values Act also added a new section expressly prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Attorney General Herring also explains that the provisions included in the Virginia Values Act are “enforced by the Division of Human Rights in the Office of the Attorney General…[that] investigates complaints alleging unlawful discrimination, makes determinations about whether there is reasonable cause to believe state or federal laws have been violated, and facilitates conciliation efforts among the parties to resolve disputes.”
The second statute that this lawsuit seeks to block is House Bill 1429, or “anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals in health insurance coverage. Under [this statute], state insurance law now prohibits ‘discrimination under a health benefit plan on the basis of gender identity or being a transgender individual, including by being denied coverage of medically necessary transition related care.’”
The plaintiffs in this case “allege that they are all ‘Bible-based ministries,’ specifically: churches (Cavalry Road Baptist Church and Community Fellowship Church), schools (Community Christian Academy and the schools associated with both churches), and a ‘nonprofit corporation that supports a network of…pregnancy centers’ (Care Net). The Plaintiffs explain in their briefs that they “believe that ‘marriage has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman’…[they] also believe that ‘God creates each human uniquely and immutably male or female’ and that ‘transgender conduct…is sinful and outside of God’s will…[adding that] [s]ame-sex marriage’ and ‘transgender ideology’ both ‘conflict’ with plaintiffs’ ‘biblical views on marriage and sexuality.’”
As Attorney General Herring argues in his brief, the lawsuit should be dismissed and the plaintiffs’ challenges to the Virginia Values Act and HB 1429 “fail at the outset” because first, the “plaintiffs lack standing…[their] alleged harm under the Virginia Values Act is entirely speculative…[and] HB 1429 does not apply to or otherwise injure plaintiffs”. Secondly, Attorney General Herring argues that, “Plaintiffs’ challenge to HB 1429 should also be dismissed because plaintiffs have not identified a proper defendant.”