Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Obenshain's Student Group Protection Act Signed Into Law

HARRISONBURG—Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) thanked Governor Bob McDonnell for signing Senate Bill 1074, the Student Group Protection Act. The legislation 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. You cannot have true freedom of expression unless you also have freedom of assembly, the freedom of individuals to join together to advance a common cause," said Obenshain.

"The Student Group Protection Act ensures that organizations will continue to be able to define themselves by their own particular views, goals, and affiliations, and that a diversity of viewpoints will continue to find expression on campuses across Virginia," Obenshain continued.

"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," said Obenshain.

Joe Cohn, Legislative and Policy Director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) noted that SB 1074 "champions the American tradition of pluralism by safeguarding the freedom of association of the Commonwealth of Virginia's public college and university students."

"One of America's greatest traditions—as observed by Tocqueville –is that Americans form associations for many different reasons.  Freedom of association is one of the fundamental characteristics of the American experiment in liberty," said Obenshain. "'All-comers' policies undermine free association by college students and ultimately—and dangerously—involve the university in deciding what viewpoints should have a voice in any organization."

"By ensuring that organizations continue to be able to define themselves by their own particular views, goals, and affiliations, my legislation will ensure that a diversity of viewpoints will continue to have expression on campuses across Virginia," Obenshain concluded.

The Supreme Court has held that, while "all-comers" policies are permissible, they are not required, and that absent such a policy, student organizations are free to establish standards of membership. Senator Obenshain's legislation will ensure that students at Virginia's public colleges and universities retain that freedom.

Mark Obenshain has served in the Senate of Virginia since 2004, and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Attorney General of Virginia.


SB 1074: 

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