Citizen Privacy Protections Enshrined into Virginia Law in Second 2022 Victory for Donor Privacy

May 4, 2022 | PUFP Staff

On April 11, 2022, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) signed House Bill 970 into law, a bill which “provides that public agencies shall not request personal donor information… from (i) any individual or any entity organized under § 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) any bidder, offeror, or contractor of an agency.” The measure further “prohibits such public agencies from disclosing personal information without the express, written permission of every individual who is identifiable from the potential release of such personal information, including individuals identifiable as members, supporters, or volunteers of, or donors to” a nonprofit. Delegate Israel O’Quinn (R) introduced H.B. 970 in the Virginia House of Delegates while Senator Jill Vogel (R) introduced a companion bill, Senate Bill 324, in the Senate. The passage of this law in Virginia marks the second victory for donor privacy in the states this year, following the passage of House Bill 2109 in Kansas in mid-April.

“Ensuring the right of all Virginians to privately donate to the causes they support without fearing their personal information will be handed over to the government and potentially used against them is crucial to a healthy democracy. House Bill 970 protects this private information and expands philanthropic freedom across Virginia,” said Heather Lauer, Executive Director of People United for Privacy.

H.B. 970 received strong bipartisan support in its journey through the Virginia General Assembly. The Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed the bill with several Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the bill. Support for the bill in the Democratic-controlled Senate was unanimous. All 40 Senators voted in favor of this crucial legislation.

Zack Pruitt, a Senior Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, commented that “Every American should be free to peacefully support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation. H.B. 970 is an important step in guaranteeing privacy protections for all Virginians in a manner consistent with last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, which affirmed that the First Amendment’s promise of ‘free association’ includes the right to privacy in financial giving.”

PUFP strongly agrees with last year’s Supreme Court ruling, and H.B. 970 enshrines that pro-privacy decision into Virginia state law. Over 280 groups signed 43 amicus briefs in support of the petitioners in Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta and Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta, representing a wide range of causes and political preferences, including progressive advocacy groups, conservative think tanks, religious organizations, trade associations, animal and human welfare advocates, educational institutions, community services, and arts and culture-focused organizations. One thing the nonprofit community can agree on is the importance of defending our right to engage in free speech and to debate issues we may disagree on, as well as the need to protect citizen privacy and the rights of individuals to exercise their First Amendment rights privately.

With the passage of H.B. 970, Virginia joins 11 other states where citizen privacy protections have been signed into law. All Virginians – regardless of their beliefs – will now be able to privately donate to causes and nonprofits they support without their personal information being disclosed to the state and without fear of being targeted or harassed for their beliefs. People United for Privacy applauds members of the Virginia General Assembly, especially the measure’s sponsors, Delegate O’Quinn and Senator Vogel, and Governor Youngkin for their leadership in protecting the First Amendment rights of all Virginians.