One month into the 2014 General Assembly session, and the Virginia Catholic Conference is working hard to advocate for the common good.  “Crossover” is Tuesday of next week, after which the Senate will only consider House bills and vice versa.  The General Assembly will also begin to get down to brass tacks on passing a budget for the next biennium, and the Conference will advocate for several budget amendments in the coming weeks.

Marriage: The week began with  a Sunday Virginian Pilot op-ed by Bishop DiLorenzo and Bishop Loverde calling on Virginians to defend marriage.  On Tuesday, hearings were held in Norfolk on the state’s marriage amendment case, in which two Virginia same-sex couples are seeking to overturn Virginia’s 2006 constitutional amendment that affirms marriage as a union between a man and a woman.  Last month, Attorney General Mark Herring refused to defend the state’s marriage law, and instead announced he would join the plaintiffs in arguing against the Commonwealth, despite widespread criticism from disenfranchised citizens, the Bishops, and numerous advocates of marriage.  District Court Judge Arenda Allen Wright told the litigants they would hear from her “very soon.”  Stay tuned for updates as the Conference continues to fight for the truth about marriage. 

Abortion: This week saw action on a number of abortion-related bills aimed at rolling back pro-life gains attained over the last several years.

In the Senate, the special elections to fill the Senate seats vacated by Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring produced outcomes that drastically changed the make-up of Senate Committees, to the detriment of pro-life interests on abortion issues.  This changed atmosphere led to the unfortunate advancement of several abortion bills by the Senate Education and Health Committee Thursday.  SB 617 (Senator Locke) seeks to repeal the ultrasound requirement of Virginia’s informed consent law and was passed by a vote of 9-5.  SB 618 and SB 646 (Senator Locke and Senator McEachin) would repeal the prohibition on abortion-on-demand coverage in health plans purchased on the federal health exchange operating in Virginia, opening the door to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand. The bill passed on a 9-6 vote. These three bills (SB 617, SB 618 and SB 646) will be debated on the Senate floor early next week.

TAKE ACTION NOW and tell your Senator to vote NO on these bills which seek to expand access to abortion-on-demand in Virginia.

Meanwhile, three House bills to repeal or weaken the ultrasound informed consent law were defeated in a subcommittee, two by voice votes and one in a 6-2 vote.

Death Penalty: The Conference opposed SB 607 (Senator Carrico), which would allow the Department of Corrections to stop seeking lethal injection drugs and use the electric chair instead, thus forcing condemned people who have chosen lethal injection to die by electrocution.  The bill proceeded to the Senate floor after being reconsidered and passed by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee last week.  The full Senate voted 21-19 to refer the bill from the floor to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, with Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain and all 20 Democrats voting in favor of the motion. The Conference welcomes the referral back to committee and will work with allies in the hope of preventing the bill from returning to the Senate floor.

8th Annual Peace Forum: This Saturday, February 8, the 8th Annual Peace Forum, “Making Peace/Protecting Life,” will begin at 9am at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Arlington.  Sponsored by the Diocese of Arlington’s Peace and Justice Commission, the forum will begin with Mass, followed by a discussion of numerous topics, including just war, War in the 21st Century and how to be peacemakers in an era plagued by conflict.  The event will feature a presentation from Bishop Richard Pates of the Diocese of Des Moines. Click here for more information.