Freedom of Association bills pass Virginia assembly

Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed “Freedom of Association”  bills that allow religious and political groups at state colleges to restrict membership to individuals who are “committed” to the organization’s mission. Opponents of the legislation said the bills are thinly veiled attempts to let subsidized campus groups discriminate against gay students.

“It’s pretty simple: A Democratic club shouldn’t have to accept a Republican as a member and members of a religious group should be able to expect that their leadership will share the group’s core commitments,” Mark Obenshain, a state senator from Harrisonburg, told the Roanoke Times.

The idea of freedom of association was supported in a US Supreme Court case in 1995, Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston. But the case did not involve state funding of the groups in question, and the Supreme Court also said that Boston gays had a right to stage their own separate parade.