September 12, 2016 at 10:43 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. Supreme Court to consider school district lawsuit

hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to consider a lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board over its decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policy.

The Virginia Supreme Court on Monday said it will consider an anti-LGBT legal group’s lawsuit against the Fairfax County School District’s nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

The lawsuit that the Liberty Counsel filed last December alleges members of the Fairfax County School Board violated Virginia law when they added LGBT-specific protections to the district’s nondiscrimination policy in November 2014 and May 2015 respectively.

Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Brett Kassabian dismissed the lawsuit in February.

The Liberty Counsel appealed Kassabian’s ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on whether to accept the case on Sept. 1.

“This is very good news that the Virginia Supreme Court decided to grant the appeal and will now review the case,” said Liberty Counsel Chair Mat Staver in a statement.

“The Fairfax Country School Board’s lawless act of adding ‘gender identity, expression and sexual orientation’ to the local policy violates state law and harms children,” he added. “This is a matter of statewide and national concern. The lower court’s dismissal was wrong and we look forward to the upcoming hearing before the Virginia Supreme Court.”

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a March 2015 opinion that state law allows school boards to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies. This position counters then-Attorney General Jerry Kilgore’s 2002 assertion that local officials cannot add LGBT-specific language to such provisions, unless the General Assembly passed a law allowing them to do so.

The Fairfax, Arlington and Albemarle County School Districts have added sexual orientation and gender identity to their nondiscrimination policies. The cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville, Richmond and Virginia Beach have also adopted measures that protect LGBT students in their public schools.

The Prince William County School Board held a public hearing last week on a proposal that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policy.

“It’s not a political agenda to protect everyone who uses the restroom, regardless of gender identity,” said Danica Roem, a transgender woman who lives in Manassas in Prince William County, during her testimony in support of the proposal. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

The board is expected to vote on the proposal on Sept. 21.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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