The Old Dominion is trending in an ominous direction, and it’s a problem for the whole country.
On Monday, the Virginia General Assembly ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Advocates of the ERA have argued that Virginia is the 38th and final state needed to add it to the Constitution, though the legal argument for that is dubious.
Nevertheless, if the ERA were to become law, it would almost certainly provide the legal basis to enshrine left-wing social dogmas nationwide, among other negative consequences.
Though the ratification is unlikely to pass legal muster, it generally shows the direction Virginia is heading.
Other states should take note: No matter how conservative your state has been in the past, you’re just one leftist legislature away from radical change.
But there are signs of hope.
The massive pro-Second Amendment protest in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 20, which drew more than 20,000 people, signaled that many Virginians are waking up to the radicalism of the newly empowered Democratic majority in the state legislature.
It would be wrong, however, to suppose that gun owners are the only Virginians in the crosshairs of the new powers that be.
The reality is that tussles between large swaths of Virginians and their lawmakers may become more frequent as the state moves sharply to the left—which has occurred for a variety of reasons. Among them is the phenomenal growth of the Washington “blob” that continues to ooze out farther and farther into suburban Virginia.
The values of the Washington, D.C., progressive elites are simply becoming pervasive and now dominate in Richmond. And the result of this blue takeover has been a tidal wave of policies that signal Virginia’s new direction.
But gun control isn’t the only initiative on the liberal agenda.
A Virginia House subcommittee recently passed the Virginia Values Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to state anti-discrimination law. These laws have often been a threat to religious liberty.
Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gregory S. Baylor, who testified against the law, said in a statement:
Whether they intend to or not, Virginia lawmakers who support sexual orientation and gender identity bills are choosing to coerce uniformity of thought and speech on beliefs about marriage, sex, and gender. That’s a dangerous path, and we respectfully ask Virginia lawmakers to exercise tolerance and respect for the good-faith disagreements we hold across the commonwealth.
The Virginia Values Act would have other specific consequences, too.
The law stipulates that small businesses with fewer than 15 employees would have to abide by strict anti-discrimination laws that require the business to pay for the legal fees of a worker who wins a case, but the workers wouldn’t have to pay the employer’s legal fees if the employer wins the case.
As lawyer Hans Bader wrote, this is a potentially enormous financial burden for a small business and could encourage frivolous lawsuits. It could do significant damage to Virginia’s economy.
Another idea on the table is a new gas tax proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam.
The proposal would add 4 cents per gallon of gas every year for three years to fund his nearly $4 billion rail and transportation plan.
This may just be the garden variety tax-and-spend liberalism, but it mirrors the trend in many blue states that treat taxpayers like a bottomless well for spending on various pet projects.
That all of these laws and initiatives have happened in such a short time frame should be a warning for the rest of the country. Virginia is now getting the California treatment, where a stream of aggressively left-wing laws come streaming through the pipeline the moment Democrats take power.
The protests perhaps demonstrate that Virginia still has an enduring gun culture that does not mesh well with a movement whose leaders insist that the citizenry, law-abiding or not, should be disarmed for its own good.
The diverse and peaceful protest in support of a constitutionally protected right, which the national media depicted so shamefully, is a hopeful sign that the people of Virginia will respond to absurd new laws with counteraction.
At the same time, it’s telling that the new powers that be in Richmond aren’t concerned with the opinions of a huge swath of the commonwealth and are willing to push ahead with their ideas whether the people like them or not.
It’s gotten so bad that some West Virginia legislators are now inviting adjacent rural Virginia counties to come join their state.
It’s a novel idea, but the reality is that it’s hard to win on a battlefield or in the realm of ideas if you are always in retreat.
The rapid pace of the Californization of Virginia should be a wake-up call to people in other states around the country. Strident progressivism now drives the Democratic Party, and the pace of its efforts to remake and fundamentally transform American society will happen at a breakneck pace if it’s given power.