Freedom means equal treatment for everyone. It means being able to live our lives without fear of discrimination or persecution. Ben is a libertarian and a Democrat because the Democratic Party is the party of freedom.
Civil rights legislation
Ben is a progressive libertarian. Just like the civil libertarians of the ACLU, he has always been and will always continue to be a staunch advocate for civil rights. Having grown up gay in the south, he knows what it’s like to face discrimination. Freedom means equal protection. We can’t be discriminated against by the government based on who we are or what we look like. Discrimination doesn’t just go away: it must be continuously fought. Ben will also continue to fight against workplace discrimination. Employment is a contract made in good faith and can’t be denied based on race, religion, sex, age or disability.
Ben decided to run for delegate when he found out that his current delegate, Nick Freitas, sponsored a discriminatory anti-LGBT law, HB 2025, which passed both the House and the Senate before being vetoed by Governor McAuliffe. HB 2025 purports to protect religious liberty, but what it really does is guarantee tax money and government subsidies to contractors and groups who want to practice anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Ben thinks private religious groups may discriminate against him as part of the free exercise of their faith. The government can’t force a minister to perform a ceremony that contradicts their faith, and can’t force a private baker or florist to participate in a ceremony against their will. But once a group is subsidized by tax money, it must be held to a different standard. The government and the contractors it employs or subsidizes can’t discriminate. To be forced to give our hard-earned money to groups who discriminate against us should offend every freedom-loving American.
Unlike HB 2025, genuine protection of religious freedom means protecting all Virginians from faith-based discrimination by the government. The right to practice our faith without fear of persecution is a freedom guaranteed to all Americans. We’ve seen religious bigotry in the motivation behind President Trump’s ‘muslim ban’ and in the repeated desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Recently, our own community has witnessed unfortunate religious discrimination when the Islamic Center of Culpeper was denied a permit that had been granted to every Christian church which had applied for it. The evidence that the permit was denied due to their faith is overwhelming. Ben will fight for the freedom of every Virginian to practice their faith in peace.
Freedom of speech
Ben is a free-speech absolutist, and opposes hate speech laws and censorship laws. The first amendment protects hate speech. The right way to fight bad speech is with better speech, not by banning the bad speech.
IDEA, the ADA, and freedom of education for disabled students. We don’t lose our freedoms just because we have a disability. President Bush’s American Disabilities Act guarantees equal protection for people with disabilities, as do the 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments. A good education is a fundamental freedom, as is the right to pursue a living and to not be a hostage in one’s own body. To protect freedom for everyone the government must guarantee a real education to every disabled student.
Restoration of rights
When we break the law, we serve our time. Once we’ve met our obligations to justice and the law, we get out rights back. It’s just that simple. A felony doesn’t mean we lose our humanity. Governor McAuliffe exercised his power under the Virginia constitution to restore voting rights to 200,000 non-violent felons. The state supreme court unjustly revoked the Governor’s action by requiring the Governor to restore voting rights on a per-application basis. As of January, our Governor has restored the rights to 140,000 former felons. Ben will work with the NAACP and other groups to continue this vital effort.
Civil asset forfeiture
The government can’t take our property unless we’ve been convicted of a crime. Senate Bill 457 was a step in the right direction by requiring clear and convincing evidence of a crime before our property can be stolen. Ben would go further and vote to require criminal conviction before the state can get a forfeiture judgement.
Dominion Energy wants to use eminent domain laws to steal people’s property and build the Atlantic Coast gas pipeline in their place. The state doesn’t get to steal our property, especially not through crony-capitalist collusion with a corporation. Ben disagrees with the Kelo decision and with President Trump, and is opposed to eminent domain laws.
Immigration reform and sanctuary cities
There’s no such thing as an illegal person. We need more immigration, not less. Virginia is growing at its slowest rate since the 1920’s. Increased immigration means bigger markets, which means more demand and more jobs. Our Hispanic and Latino friends and neighbors should not be afraid to participate in society. Ben supports the right of local communities to declare themselves sanctuaries and will work with local groups to provide legal services and aid to all Americans, documented or not.