Richmond, VA - The ACLU of Virginia today released its annual review of the Virginia legislative session. Civil Liberties Review: Virginia General Assembly 2008 describes nearly 100 bills pertaining to civil liberties and civil rights in Virginia. The bills are divided into eleven categories: Free Expression, Religious Liberty, Equal Rights, Immigrants’ Rights, Mental Health Law Reform, Privacy, Reproductive Rights, Death Penalty, Criminal Justice and Due Process, Open Government, and Access to the Polls. Nearly all of the bills that passed will become law on July 1.
“Legislators continued their anti-immigrant obsession this year, introducing more than 100 bills addressing language, housing, employment, education, and criminal justice issues as they relate to immigrants,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “These bills are a shameful broadside attack on Virginia’s Latino community.”

Notable Aspects of the 2008 General Assembly Session

  • More than 100 anti-immigrant bills introduced; few pass.
  • New laws will affect due process and privacy rights of mentally ill persons.
  • Senate blocks anti-choice bills after passage in the House of Delegates.
  • New law prevents dissemination of information found on government websites.
  • Secret Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center exempted from public inquiries.
  • Voter ID bill fails (but Supreme Court later upholds similar measure in Indiana).
  • Death penalty expansion bill passes House and Senate but vetoed by Governor.
  • Bill to dramatically expand police powers to arrest and search in Virginia fails.
  • New law protects student religious expression in schoolwork (but not political, philosophical or social expression).
While the review contains a partial listing of legislation targeting Virginia’s immigrant population, a separate publication provides a more comprehensive list of bills in this category. Both publications are available at www.acluva.org.
“We are disappointed that legislators did not take advantage of opportunities to extend voting rights or to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing and employment,” said Willis. “And, sadly, lawmakers continued to ignore reform of the death penalty despite ample evidence that the legal system in Virginia is fundamentally unfair to persons accused of a capital crime.”

Contact: Kent Willis, 804/644-8022