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Virginia State Capitol in Richmond (via Wikimedia Commons)

America’s oldest continuous law-making body, the Virginia General Assembly, is now in session, and local lawmakers have introduced a slew of new legislation.

With split control of the General Assembly, Republicans of the House of Delegates and Democrats of the Senate, it’s unclear how many bills introduced by Arlington’s all-Democratic representation will pass.

Still, some priorities appear to have a measure of bipartisan support, including SB 1096 (from Sen. Adam Ebbin) permitting marriage between two people regardless of sex while protecting the right of religious clergy to decline presiding over same-sex marriages.

Here are some of the bills that were pre-filed ahead of this session.

Arlingtonians could get relief from noisy cars and predatory towing.

  • SB 1085 (Ebbin): Prohibits the sale and use of aftermarket mufflers. This follows up on a change in law last year reversing a 2021 law that prevented officers from pulling over drivers just for having an excessively loud exhaust system. The original law was intended to reduce pretextual traffic stops and racial disparities but might have contributed to an uptick in noise complaints those living along highways and busy roads.
  • HB 2062 (Del. Alfonso Lopez) and SB 790 (Sen. Barbara Favola): Reprises a failed 2022 bill that would make violations of existing towing law subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Under this act, predatory towing could receive heftier civil penalties than the $150 fine currently codified. Tackling predatory towing was a 2023 Arlington County Board legislative priority.

In addition to Ebbin’s same-sex marriage bill, a few others pertain to family life, health and privacy.

  • SB 1324 (Ebbin): Gives parents who make less than $100,000 a $500 child tax credit for 2023-2027.
  • SB 852 (Favola): Protects menstrual data stored on computers, computer networks or other devices — like phone period tracking applications — from being subject to search warrants. This likely responds to a Republican bill to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks except in the case of rape or incest or if the pregnancy endangers the life or “major bodily functions” of the mother.
  • HB 1879 (Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker): Requires each managed care health insurance plan licensee to provide a sufficient number and mix of services, specialists and practice sites to meet mental health care needs 24/7.

A number of gun control bills would curtail who can own a gun and who can assume possession of those owned by people who have committed a crime, while tackling the proliferation of “ghost guns.”

  • HB 1729 (Bennett-Parker) and SB 909 (Favola): Requires people to be at least 21 years old and to live under a different roof in order to accept guns from someone legally required to surrender them for being convicted of assaulting a family member or being under a protective order.
  • HB 1579 (Del. Rip Sullivan): Prevents people from buying or transporting firearms if they have two convictions in five years for operating a car or boat while drunk.
  • SB 1181 (Ebbin): Makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who is not a federal firearms importer, manufacturer or dealer to knowingly sell, offer to sell, transfer or purchase unfinished firearms that do not have serial numbers. These can be purchased online and used to build untraceable firearms, known as “ghost guns.”
  • SB 1192 (Ebbin): Prohibits certain semi-automatic guns — loaded or not — in any public right-of-way or publicly accessible natural area.

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For the third consecutive year, Democratic lawmakers and gay rights activists are mounting efforts to end conversion therapy for children under 18, a practice that attempts to change individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The state bill, pre-filed by Del. Patrick Hope (D) this month, would bar healthcare providers or individuals involving with counseling in a profession licensed by the Dept. of Health Professions from trying to change the child’s sexual orientation.

Hope said he wants to protect children who are not mature enough to choose the potentially dangerous treatment for themselves. The practice is banned in Washington, D.C. and four states.

“Conversion therapy is based on the false assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder or a sin. Well, it is not. There is no on/off switch to sexual orientation,” he said in a statement.

Advocacy organizations like The Trevor Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia are backing the bill to end a practice they say is dangerous and discredited. The practice rests on the assumption that homosexuality is a mental illness and requires therapy. Major mental health organizations like the American Psychiatric Association have also denounced the practice.

Similar legislation introduced over the last two years failed. Last year, proponents of conversion therapy like the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality testified that conversion therapy does not interfere with a gay teenager’s freedom of choice to undergo therapy. The bill died in committee by a 7-8 vote last year.

Hope aims to court support across the aisle this year. “This is an issue Republicans and Democrats can agree,” he said in a statement.

If approved, the change would not affect counseling that attempts to help children undergoing gender transition, services that help children explore their development and interventions to prevent unsafe or unlawful sexual practices.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Ballston Common Mall food court (Flickr pool photo by Joe Green)

County Gov’t Open on Columbus Day — Arlington County government offices will be open on Monday, Oct. 12. Courts, the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV and Arlington Public Schools, however, will be closed in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. [Arlington County]

Arlington Same-Sex Marriage Stats — Over the past year, same-sex marriages have accounted for 7.2 percent of all marriage licenses in Arlington County. [InsideNova]

Teachers Endorse Cristol, Dorsey — The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee, which represents Arlington Public Schools teachers, has endorsed Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in the upcoming County Board general election. [Christian Dorsey]

Suburban Pols Rail Against I-66 Tolls — Lawmakers from the outer Northern Virginia suburbs are calling VDOT’s proposal to add tolls to I-66 “highway robbery.” Said a Republican state lawmaker from Manassas: “Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable.” [InsideNova]

British School Choir Coming to Arlington — The IPS singers, a school choir from London, will perform “sacred choral works by famed composers” at the Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) next Friday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.

Arlington Bros Create ‘B.R.O. Ball’ — Two federal contractors from Arlington, along with a third partner, are trying to raise $75,000 on Kickstarter to make a football with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker inside. They have dubbed the ball the “B.R.O. Ball.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Joe Green

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Rainbow flag(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Local officials and politicians have spoken out in support of this morning’s historic Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.

The 5-4 ruling was almost immediately decried by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, but others in the county have enthusiastically endorsed the landmark decision.

Board member Jay Fisette, who in 1997 became the first openly gay elected official in Virginia, said he was overjoyed by today’s ruling.

“I had absolutely no idea that this day would come in my lifetime — let alone while I was still in office,” said Fisette. “The Court’s action validates the lives of millions of Americans, reinforces the value of equality to our nation, and puts us in step with the civilized free nations on the planet.”

Board member Libby Garvey echoed Fisette’s excitement about the Supreme Court decision, telling ARLnow that she was delighted by the news and had “been exchanging happy texts this morning with my sister and her wife and other family.”

In a statement today, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called the vote “an extraordinary moment in our nation’s recognition that Americans cannot and will not be denied dignity, rights, and responsibilities, including those of marriage, simply because of who they love.”

“I am proud we put Virginia on the right side of history on this issue,” Herring said, referencing the fact that gay marriage has been legal in Virginia since 2014. Herring held a press conference about marriage equality outside the Arlington County courthouse this afternoon.

Don Beyer, member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia’s 8th district, also issued a statement this morning in which he applauded the Supreme Court and called the nationwide guarantee of marriage equality a “watershed moment in American history.”

“Gay rights are human rights and today we have ensured that all Americans, regardless of their sexuality, have the right to share the rest of their lives with the person they love,” said Beyer. “I could not be prouder to stand with my LGBTQ constituents and celebrate this incredible moment.”

Several of the area’s gay pride groups have upcoming events where residents can celebrate. The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance is hosting a Pride Month Social this Sunday evening from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Freddie’s Beach Bar & Restaurant (555 23rd St S.), and NOVA Pride has a SCOTUS Ruling Happy Hour scheduled for Monday night at A-Town Bar & Grill (4100 Fairfax Drive) from 5-10 p.m.

Arlington officials cautioned that this ruling only deals with one aspect of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, however. According to Fisette, the next big LGBTQ issue facing the nation is employment discrimination, and though some local governments — like Arlington’s — prohibit hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual identity, many still don’t.

“In most states, including Virginia, it is legal to fire someone simply because they are gay,” said Fisette.

Delegate Patrick A. Hope of the Virginia General Assembly agreed with Fisette, saying “Tomorrow, we must continue our efforts to end LGBT discrimination in other areas, such as in workplace, with the goal to treat every American fairly and equally.”

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Bishop Paul Loverde, the head of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, has issued a statement opposing today’s 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court to legalize marriage in all fifty states.

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington represents most of northern Virginia in the Catholic Church. Loverde released his statement along with Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of the Richmond diocese.

The full statement is below:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to two persons of the same sex, and requires a state to recognize as marriage the union of two people of the same sex when it was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.  We are deeply distressed by this decision which fails to uphold marriage as the union which unites one man and one woman.  This fundamental institution, grounded in natural law, predates any religion or nation.

All persons have inviolable dignity and deserve love and respect. Unjust discrimination is always wrong. However, our commitment to marriage is a matter of justice and fidelity to our Creator’s original design. Marriage is the only institution uniting one man and one woman with each other and with any child who comes from their union. Redefining marriage furthers no one’s rights, least of all those of children.

As Bishops, we believe it is more vital than ever that we share the Church’s consistent witness to the truth about marriage, and we call on Catholics and those concerned for the common good to continue to pray, live and speak out with charity about the true nature of marriage. The truth cannot be marginalized.

We will join with our brother bishops from across the country when we shortly share an additional statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which will provide further analysis.

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