Virginia governor vetoes ‘religious exemption’ bill

Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill which he said would legalize discrimination against same-sex couples in the Commonwealth.

“Although couched as a ‘religious freedom’ bill, this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize,” said McAuliffe in a statement sent out following a live veto on the DC News radio station WTOP.

SB 41, sponsored by Sen. Carrico (R-40), aimed to stop the government from fining anyone who solemnizes a marriage or provides a services associated with weddings in a religious capacity if they denied the services to a same-sex couple because of their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

“Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States;” wrote McAuliffe, who also pointed to Virginia’s long-held Religious Freedoms Act religious organizations like priests and churches are already allowed to deny services if it violates their beliefs.

“Any additional protections are styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint—that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman—over all other viewpoints,” he said. “Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”

Activists groups are already celebrating the veto. The folks at Equality Virginia had been fighting Carrico’s bill since day one and applauded McAuliffe’s action today.

“Senator Carrico’s bill sought to blatantly and directly discriminate against gay and lesbian couples and families under the guise of religious freedom,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. ”We are thankful to have a governor opposing this and working to make Virginia more open and welcoming for everyone, not less.”

According to EV, SB 41 was one of nine discriminatory bills filed during Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly targeting LGBTQ. Parrish noted it was the most he’s seen since he’s been involved in LGBTQ issues, and called the attacks “unprecedented.”

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