Richmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia today released its annual review of the Virginia legislative session. Civil Liberties Review: 2007 Session of the Virginia General Assembly describes 89 bills pertaining to civil liberties and civil rights in Virginia. The bills are divided into ten categories: Free Expression, Religious Liberty, Death Penalty, Reproductive Rights, Immigrants Rights, Gay and Lesbian Rights, Equal Rights, Privacy, Criminal Justice and Due process, and Voting and Access to Government.
“Not surprisingly, legislators were obsessed with immigrants this year, introducing more than a dozen measures intended to deny benefits or rights to them,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “None of the blatantly anti-immigrant bills passed, but the not-welcome message sent to Virginia’s immigrant population by Virginia’s lawmakers was as troubling as it was resounding.”
Notable changes to Virginia law, July 1, 2007:
- Death penalty expanded, but limited by veto of “triggerman” rule changes.
- Hospital visitation rights for gays and lesbians established.
- New fee plan will improve representation for indigent criminal defendants.
- Anti-SLAPP law protects right to express opinions at public meetings.
- Libraries required to place anti-pornography filters on all computers.
- Religious rights expanded for everyone but incarcerated persons.
- Legislators apologize for slavery and treatment of Native Americans.
Unchanged but threatened:
- Unprecedented spate of anti-immigrant bills sets xenophobic tone for session.
- Reproductive rights unaffected, but some anti-choice bills barely defeated.
“We were disappointed that legislators chose to expand the death penalty at the very time we had hoped for a moratorium on execution,” said Willis. “Fortunately, the Governor successfully vetoed a bill that could have dramatically increased executions by allowing capital charges to be brought against accessories and others only indirectly involved in capital murders.
Civil Liberties Review is 18 pages long, and is available online at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20070716-civillibertiesreview2007b.pdf