If you live in Virginia, you may be wondering whether you have the same rights listed in the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights. After all, each state is free to create its own constitution that further expands upon the federal declaration. If you are concerned about the rights that you have as a Virginian and how they are protected, it is important to learn more about where those rights came from and what they look like today, many years after they were originally created.
The Historical Basis Of Virginia’s Rights
Interestingly, the Virginia Declaration of Rights was incepted before even the US Constitution’s, adopted on June 12, 1776. Virginia set the standard for this type of document, and it was used as a basis for the Bill of Rights in the Constitution proper some 15 years later. Virginia’s declaration grants a wide variety of rights to those who live there, many of which overlap with what is offered in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. They include, among many others:
Protection Of Speech
Just like in the Bill of Rights, Virginians are granted the freedom of speech by their state declaration as well. In Virginia, you are free to express your thoughts, and you may not (typically) be prohibited from doing so. However, it is important to keep in mind that in Virginia as well as across the United States, your free speech is only protected from interference from the government.
That is, the government cannot forbid you from speaking, and it cannot remove your access to others’ ideas. This freedom does not extend, for example, to private businesses. This is why banning someone on a social media platform does not infringe upon their individual right to free speech.
Protection Against Discrimination
Individual rights are protected in Virginia more thoroughly than they used to be, and this includes matters of discrimination. New updates to the declaration of rights ensure that Virginians cannot be denied employment or terminated based on discriminatory variables such as age, gender, family status and, most recently, sexual orientation. LGBTQIA+ individuals have seen their protections increase in recent years. This protection of individual rights extends not only to employment but also to housing and matters of public accommodation (such as receiving service at a restaurant). The Virginia Human Rights Act supports the initial declaration to expand these principles.
The Right to Acquisition And Holding Of Property
One of the original features of the Declaration of Rights set forth in Virginia was the right to have property. This includes not only acquiring property but also being allowed to keep it. As normal, your right to keep your property is guided by rules, and your rights are not being violated if your home is foreclosed due to non-payment of mortgage debt. However, your individual right to purchase or rent property regardless of your skin color, sexual orientation, marital status and more is protected in Virginia.
How Individual Rights Are Protected In Virginia
In the vast majority of cases, your rights as set forth by documents such as the Bill of Rights and Virginia’s own Human Rights Act are inalienable—they cannot be taken away from you. However, there are some limited circumstances in which your rights may be limited for the good of the general welfare.
The original language of this exception states that rights may be limited “by the law of the land or by the judgment of [your] peers.” What this means in practical terms is that if you exercise your rights in such a way that you are conducting yourself in violation of a law or are posing a threat to the public, you could still face consequences. If you use your free speech to incite a riot, your right to free speech may be temporarily interrupted in order to protect the public.
Work With The Professional Civil Rights Attorneys If Your Rights Have Been Violated
Understanding your individual rights is an important part of ensuring that you are treated in the manner that you deserve. If you suspect that your individual rights have been violated in Virginia, you do have options. You may pursue legal action against a party that has violated your rights, but it is important that you start this process by speaking to an experienced civil rights attorney.
The lawyers at The Brown Firm would be happy to help you understand your next steps and how to proceed in seeking justice and receiving the compensation that you deserve. Reach out over the phone at (703) 936- 7520 or online to schedule an appointment to discuss the incident and learn more.