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Virginia house passes first bill to roll back LGBTQ rights after Republicans won it back

A house that says "not welcome"
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The Virginia House of Delegates passed a religious exemptions bill in a 54-45 vote.

While religious businesses and non-profits have to follow numerous laws and regulations, the bill only allows them to claim a religious exemption to the state’s anti-discrimination law and says any “religious corporation, association, or society” in the state can refuse to provide housing to people if they say that doing so would violate their religious principles.

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

Under current Virginia law, even religious non-profits and businesses have to follow the state’s anti-discrimination law, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, and disability.

The bill is not expected to pass the state senate because it’s still narrowly controlled by Democrats, who have promised to reject all anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“Anti-equality legislators in Virginia have repeatedly pushed legislation this session that would allow discrimination including against LGBTQ+ individuals,” said Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director Cathryn Oakley in a statement. “These repeated efforts have been especially prevalent in the House of Delegates, which has a slim anti-equality majority following last year’s election.”

“The latest example is H.B. 753, which would allow religion-based discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other characteristics.”

In 2020 Virginia banned discrimination against LGBTQ people with the Virginia Values Act, which passed several months after Democrats took both legislative chambers and the governor was Democrat Ralph Northam.

But Republicans won the state House of Delegates back and the governor is now Republican Glenn Youngkin, who has publicly stated he opposes marriage equality and was elected on a campaign that focused on banning lessons about racism in schools.

The right to refuse to sell houses or rent apartments to LGBTQ people or to refuse LGBTQ people from homeless shelters has been one of the major focuses of the movement for religious exemptions.

Ben Carson, who was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump administration, worked for years to make it legal for homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender people. In 2019, he said that he was trying to protect “Biblical principles.”

The number of adults who identify as LGBTQ has doubled in the past 10 years

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