GOP lawmaker admits that “the whole point of” religious exemptions is to allow discrimination

December 5, 2017-Umbrella with religious messages being displayed at the Supreme Court in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop
Photo: Shutterstock

A Republican lawmaker admitted in public that the entire point of his “religious freedom” is to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people.

For years, LGBTQ advocates have argued that religious exemptions – either passed through legislation or created in court decisions – would effectively legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people. Christian conservatives have refused to publicly admit it, claiming that such exemptions would “protect” Christians’ religious freedom without leading to discrimination.

Related: Republicans hope to make Virginia the next state to ban trans youth from sports

But now Virginia State Sen. Mark Peake (R) was caught saying the quiet parts out loud while discussing his proposed S.B. 177, a bill that would create a religious exemption to the state’s ban on discrimination in housing, allowing a “religious corporation, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization” to refuse to provide housing to people who they believe don’t follow their “religious principles.”

“You are correct, what you said is correct,” Peake said in a committee hearing. “They would be allowed to discriminate against people that they do not feel follow their religious beliefs.”

“This is the whole point of it, is for their religious beliefs, and it gives them the ability to discriminate against people that conflict with their religious beliefs.”

“I think that is the substance of this bill,” he said, laughing.

Religious conservatives have a long history of denying that their demands for religious exemptions will lead to discrimination against LGBTQ people and religious minorities, insisting that businesses and non-profits can refuse to serve people they don’t like without it really being discrimination.

One of the most famous examples of this refusal to acknowledge basic reality was an interview then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence did with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in 2015. When Stephanopoulos asked Pence if Indiana’s religious exemptions bill would allow discrimination against gay couples, Pence said no and responded that the bill is for “protecting… the religious liberty of Hoosiers.”

The Virginia Senate General Laws and Technology Committee rejected S.B. 177 in an 8-7 vote.

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