The Virginia Catholic Conference’s third week at the 2014 session of the Virginia General Assembly featured Catholic Advocacy Day in Richmond.  Though the snowstorm earlier in the week dampened turnout a bit, about 150 advocates attended the event.

Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington welcomed the advocates and kicked off the Conference’s 10th annual Catholic Advocacy Day, praising those present for their hard work and dedication in advocating for the common good.  These advocacy efforts are an outgrowth of our call to evangelize through the way we live out our faith.  Executive Director Jeff Caruso and Associate Directors Virginia Podboy, Amanda Jay and Michael Lewis provided a short legislative briefing on priority issues on the Conference’s legislative agenda. Afterward, participants caucused with other advocates from their senate districts, then made their way to the General Assembly Building to meet with their Delegates and Senators to lobby on issues related to the sanctity of life and marriage, the death penalty, education, health care, and social and economic justice.

Mass, lunch and a debriefing were provided at St. Peter’s Catholic Church adjacent to the Capitol.  The debriefing allowed participants to reflect on the day’s events and provide feedback. The Bishops and Conference staff express gratitude to those who came out to advance the common good.  Heartfelt thanks go to the numerous volunteers who helped make Catholic Advocacy Day another success, and the folks at St. Peter’s for their warm hospitality and delicious Brunswick stew!

This week also marked Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of the invaluable contributions Catholic education makes to the lives of families and children across the country.  Click here to see our blog post on the week and learn how you can support Catholic schools in Virginia.

Here’s a re-cap of this week’s legislative action on some Conference priorities:

Marriage: As many of you have no doubt heard, Attorney General Mark Herring announced last week that he will not defend Virginia’s marriage law, but will join the plaintiffs in seeking to overturn the law and redefine marriage to include same-sex couples in Virginia.  In 2006, voters-including Mr. Herring himself-overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  The attorney general has a duty to represent the Virginians who entrusted him to defend all the laws of the Commonwealth, whether he agrees with them or not.  Click here to voice your dismay and urge AG Herring to defend the Commonwealth’s law or appoint outside counsel to represent the citizens of Virginia.

Death Penalty: The Conference opposed SB 607 (Senator Carrico), which provides that electrocution shall be used to administer the death penalty if the Director of the Department of Corrections certifies that lethal injection is not available as a method of execution.  The bill was reconsidered and was passed 8-6 by the Senate Rehab and Social Services Committee today after failing to pass last week.  The bill will now be considered by the full Senate.  Take action now and tell your Senator to vote NO on SB 607.

Tuition Equity Act: Conference-supported legislation, HB 747 (Delegate Rust), would grant in-state tuition status to immigrant students who have been granted Deferred Action status through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  The bill would apply to DACA students who have attended high school in Virginia for three years and can prove they (or their parents/legal guardian) have filed Virginia income taxes for three years.    The bill passed the House Education Committee on a 19-3 vote and was referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Adoption by Same-Sex Couples: Conference-opposed legislation, HB 1113 (Delegate Yost), sought to allow “second parent adoptions,” by which a child’s only parent could consent to any other any person becoming the second parent. The bill, strongly supported by Equality Virginia, was defeated in the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee on Civil Laws by voice vote.

Closing the Loophole for Open-End Lines of Credit: Conference-supported legislation, HB 1004 (Delegate Yancey), would regulate open-end lines of credit the same way other types of loans are regulated.  The bill was defeated by a voice vote in the House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee #2.