RICHMOND—Today, Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) thanked the members of the Senate Committee on Education and Health reporting his Student Group Protection Act (SB 1074) to the full Senate on a 9-6 vote. The bill is a response to so-called "all-comers" policies adopted by some universities which prohibit student groups from conditioning membership or leadership roles on sharing the organization's core beliefs.
"Freedom of association is one of our most fundamental rights," said Obenshain. "Many student groups are organized around shared principles or goals. What's the point of having such a group if you can't even expect group members to share those goals?"
In recent years, several public colleges and universities in Virginia have adopted "all-comers" policies similar to the Vanderbilt University policy that made national headlines last year. Obenshain's legislation is restricted in scope to public institutions of higher education.
"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. It's perfectly reasonable for an organization to expect its members to agree with, and be good examples of, the organization's mission," Obenshain added.
The Senate Committee on Education and Health reported the bill on a 9-6 vote. "Today's vote was a victory for common sense and for the constitutional right of free association," said Obenshain.
In addressing the ACLU's opposition to the bill, Obenshain commented, "If they are going to stand up for civil liberties, all I ask is that they start protecting all of them and not just the ones they like."
The bill will come before the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday. A committee vote tally can be found at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?131+vot+S04V0109+SB1074
Mark Obenshain has served in the Senate of Virginia since 2004, and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Attorney General of Virginia.
ON THE WEB:
SB 1074: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?ses=131&typ=bil&val=sb1074