The state of Virginia has passed a bill that allows tax-payer funded agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples if they hold religious or moral convictions.
House Bill 2025, which was being pushed by Delegate Nicholas Freitas, has been passed by the full House of Delegates.
This bill states that “no person shall be required to participate in the solemnisation of any marriage.”
People who do discriminate will not be “subject to any penalty” if they are seen to be acting in “accordance with a sincerely held religious belief.”
The bill will allow discrimination against same-sex couple wanting to marry.
The move was condemned by the Human Rights Campaign, which compared it to other discriminatory pieces of legislation across the US.
“The Virginia House of Delegates’ decision to pass this legislation puts the state’s people, reputation, and economy at risk,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
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“This reckless bill in truth has nothing to do with the right to practice one’s religion, which is already firmly protected by the First Amendment. Rather, it is a thinly veiled attempt to provide a special license to discriminate with taxpayer funds. The discriminatory measure would no doubt result in multiple, expensive legal challenges and fallout similar to the self-inflicted wound in North Carolina from HB2. The Virginia Senate must reject this legislative assault on LGBTQ Virginians and their families.”
“We recognize that religion is a vital part of many Virginians’ daily lives, but HB 2025 does not protect religious liberty. Instead, it provides a license to discriminate against loving LGBTQ families,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish.
“Furthermore, its broad and vague definition of ‘person’ would set a dangerous precedent for discriminatory individuals and groups to be protected by our religious freedom laws.”
Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a similar proposal last year.
House Bill 2025 comes just after Virginia’s version of controversial bathroom-ban bill HB2 was killed without debate.
Introduced by Bob Marshall, the bill would have banned individuals from using a bathroom corresponding to any gender other than that displayed on their birth certificate.
The bill was quickly condemned by Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who vowed to fight against such legislation.
Following the doing away with Marshall’s bill, he accused legislators of breaking campaign promises.
Governor Terry McAuliffe signed executive order 61, which protects the rights of LGBT people in public services.
The Order extends pre-existing protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for state employees to contractors and in the delivery of state services.