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Keeping his promise to protect LGBT rights in the state, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a controversial ‘religious exemption’ bill which, if passed, would have allowed religious organisations to refuse to provide services to LGBT people on moral grounds.
As the debate around LGBT rights – and the right of religious traditionalists to ignore them – heats up, more and more states are debating laws around same-sex marriage, access to services, the use of bathrooms by trans people, and anti-LGBT hate crime protections.
McAuliffe told radio station WTOP, ‘We cannot have fear and persecution, people being demonized, we’re not going to tolerate that.’
McAuliffe, a Democrat, said the First Amendment already provided protections for freedom of worship and freedom of speech, and that the bill would be disciminatory to LGBT people.
‘Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,’ he said.
‘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. Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.’
The bill was sponsored by Grayson County Republican Senator Charles W. Carrico, Sr. ‘Bill’ Carrico previously argued that the bill was designed to protect religious leaders and organisations who disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to strike down state bans on same-sex marriage.
Equality Virginia executive director James Parrish said, ‘Equality Virginia applauds Governor McAuliffe for fulfilling his promise to veto this discriminatory and destructive bill.’
Mr. Parrish added that the bill ‘sought to blatantly and directly discriminate against gay and lesbian couples and families under the guise of religious freedom, and we are thankful to have a governor opposing this and working to make Virginia more open and welcoming for everyone, not less.’
Republican Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia likewise vetoed a similar bill earlier this week, but North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory recently signed in legislation forcing trans people to use the bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates.
McAuliffe has built a reputation for attracting big business to the state. He claims that such anti-LGBT legislation is a deterrent to corporate America, which is largely pro-LGBT.
Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia said, ‘It is unfortunate that Gov. McAuliffe is so willing to discriminate against people of faith who simply disagree with the secular left’s sexual dogma.’
The governor also vetoed a bill stripping public funds from Planned Parenthood, stating that it was an attack on women’s rights.
Regarding that incident, he said, ‘We are here today to smack down the latest attack on ladies’ healthcare rights.’