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Four Reasons I Testified Against Virginia SOGI Bills

By Gregory S. Baylor posted on:
February 6, 2020

As Senior Counsel for Legislative Advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom, I’ve dedicated much of my time over the last year to educating Congress about misguided proposals to elevate “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to protected class status.  These proposals (known as “SOGIs”), which would inflict significant harms on untold numbers of Americans, include the deceptively named Equality Act (H.R. 5) and the Fairness for All Act (H.R. 5331).

Proponents claim these bills would promote tolerance and inclusion. In reality, they would open the door to government-mandated discrimination, inequality, and coercion.  How do we know? Because state and local SOGIs have done just that, undermining freedom and the common good.

Now this issue is facing us here at home.

I live in Virginia, where the state legislature is considering similar harmful proposals.  Last week, I drove down to Richmond to testify against these bills, HB 1663 and SB 868. Here’s why.

1. SOGI laws violate the bodily privacy of women by forcing them to share private spaces with men.

In Alaska, city officials tried to use a similar law to force a women’s shelter to allow biological men who identify as women to sleep just three feet away from women who have experienced rape, sex trafficking, and domestic violence. In Pennsylvania, a high school quietly adopted an “open-door” SOGI-like policy, permitting boys who identify as female to use the girls’ locker rooms and restrooms. And in Georgia, a local school district, relying on its SOGI policy, allowed a male student who identified as “gender fluid” to use the girls’ restroom, leading to the sexual assault of a five-year-old girl.

As a husband and the father of two daughters, I want them—and all Virginians—to feel safe in private spaces designated just for women. But these bills would threaten that.

2. SOGI laws have been used to punish small business owners who serve everyone but cannot express every message.

These are people who willingly serve everyone but will not promote messages and celebrate events that conflict with their beliefs. Jack Phillips, Barronelle Stutzman, and Blaine Adamson have faced years-long legal battles over their stand for their beliefs. I don’t want business owners in Virginia to face the same consequences.

3. SOGI laws violate the free speech and religious exercise rights of business owners, employers, and employees.

SOGI policies have been used to force people to refer to their customers, employees, and co-workers by their preferred pronouns—even if doing so violates their core beliefs about biological sex and gender.

This has already happened in Virginia.

Just down the road from Richmond in Williamsburg, Virginia, high school French teacher Peter Vlaming was fired from his job for declining to refer to a female student with male pronouns. Out of respect for the student, Mr. Vlaming consistently used the student’s preferred name while avoiding the use of pronouns altogether. But that compromise wasn’t enough for the school board—which was on a crusade to compel conformity. These bills would bring that crusade to the whole state.

4. SOGI laws compromise the ability of religious schools to operate consistently with their faith.

I have seen this firsthand. As the Director of ADF’s Center for Religious Schools, I have worked to preserve the rights of religious educational institutions to run their schools in accordance with their beliefs. These bills could compromise that critical freedom. Religious schools might face liability if they continue to draw members of their communities from among those who adhere to the same religious beliefs and conduct standards concerning marriage, sexuality, and biological sex and gender.

The bottom line is that SOGI laws create more problems than they solve. And they should be opposed at every level—from local ordinances to federal legislation.

Gregory S. Baylor

Gregory S. Baylor

Director of Center for Religious Schools, Senior Counsel for Government Affairs

Gregory S. Baylor serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is the director of the Center for Religious Schools and Senior Counsel for Government Affairs.

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