June July 2016
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Sorry, Liberty Counsel — LGBT Protections Can Stay at Virginia Schools

Andrea Lafferty
Andrea Lafferty; president of the antigay Traditional Values Coalition

There's nothing wrong with a Virginia school district's protections for LGBT students, a state judge determined Friday, according to the Washington Blade

A judge in Fairfax County Circuit Court Friday dismissed the lawsuit against the Fairfax County Public Schools board, filed in December by right-wing legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel. The stridently anti-LGBT nonprofit claimed that the school board's May decision to include sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy violated a law known as Dillon's Rule, which bars local governing bodies (including school boards) from going beyond state law in such policies. Virginia's statewide antidiscrimination law does not enumerate protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

But the court rejected that argument, effectively siding with a March opinion from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, which stated that school districts had the right to amend nondiscrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity under the broad authority granted by the state constitution, although they are not required to do so.

FCPS Pride, a group for LGBT employees of Fairfax County schools, celebrated the decision with a Facebook post on Friday, lauding that "our non-discrimination policies are safe" and encouraging other districts to use Fairfax County's policy as a model to update their own. 

The named plaintiffs in the now-dismissed suit included Andrea Lafferty, president of the antigay Traditional Values Coalition, and an anonymous student and his parents. Lafferty, a Fairfax County resident, had fought against the board's expansion of the nondiscrimination policy. The student, identified only as "Jack Doe," alleged that he was "distressed" about the possibility of sharing gender-segregated spaces with fellow students who may be transgender, the suit claimed. 

But the court dismissed that claim, noting that Doe had not suffered any actual harm as a result of the policy — he had not been harassed, expelled, or suspended, so he had no standing to file the lawsuit. 

In a Friday press release denouncing the decision as wrongful, Liberty Counsel vowed to appeal the dismissal, and portrayed LGBT-inclusive protections as an inherent danger and violation of the privacy of straight, cisgender (nontrans) students

"Under today’s ruling, students in Fairfax County Public Schools are told, ‘We do not care if your fundamental right to education and right to privacy have been violated,'" Liberty Counsel litigation counsel Daniel Schmid said in the release. "Minors in Fairfax County, Virginia, will now be subjected to invasions of their privacy, inside the very school district tasked with protecting them. Once again, the fundamental rights of minors were trampled by a lack of common sense and an appropriate understanding of biology." 

In addition to representing defiantly antigay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, Liberty Counsel has provided pro bono legal counsel to more than a dozen leading anti-LGBT activists and organizations. Get a load of Liberty Counsel's client roster here

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