William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Sarah Miller


In November 1992, the Arlington County Board voted to add "sexual orientation" to the group of classes protected under its antidiscrimination policy. When a store owner was sued for violating this policy in 2006, he countersued, claiming that Arlington did not have the power to enact such a policy. His claim was based on the existence of a strongly state-centered power hierarchy unique to a very small minority of states, including Virginia, laid out in the Dillon Rule. Virginia's use of the Dillon Rule basically cripples its municipal corporations by injecting uncertainty into the process of enacting local legislation and by making local leaders reticent to enact progressive measures lest they be challenged or overruled outright. In effect, this seemingly innocuous and outdated power hierarchy has stunted civil rights movements, specifically the gay rights movement, in Virginia and should be eradicated.