February 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. House approves ‘Kim Davis’ religious freedom bill

Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

The Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 16, 2016, approved a “Kim Davis” religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow anti-LGBT discrimination in the state. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday approved a religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow anti-LGBT discrimination.

The Republican-controlled chamber approved House Bill 773 by a 56-41 vote margin.

State Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced the measure, which is also known as the Government Nondiscrimination Act, last month.

HB 773 would prohibit government entities from taking “any discriminatory action against a person, in whole or in part, on the basis that such person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that…marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” The measure also includes “the male sex and the term ‘man’ and the female sex and the term ‘woman’ refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics of the individual at the time of birth.”

The Virginia House Democratic Caucus in a press release described HB 773 as “a Kim Davis inspired bill,” referring to the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Giving preference to one person’s religious beliefs over those of another is offensive and promotes inequality,” said state Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) in the Virginia House Democratic Caucus press release. “Ensuring that all Virginians are equal in the eyes of the law should be the goal of the General Assembly. Granting a free pass to discriminate is simply wrong.”

State Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) also criticized HB 773’s passage.

“This legislation gives state approval to discriminate against others,” said the Roanoke Democrat in a statement.

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, praised HB 773.

“The Government Non-Discrimination Act (GNDA) balances the new found right to whatever definition of marriage you want with our nation’s longstanding principle of religious free exercise by ensuring that the heavy hand of government cannot penalize a person or religious charity because of his or her beliefs about marriage and human sexuality,” she said in a statement. “Charitable religious organizations should be treated fairly, not targeted and punished by the government because of their beliefs about marriage. The faith that inspires their charitable service shouldn’t be used by the government to discriminate against them.”

The Virginia Senate will consider HB 773 later this month.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said he would veto the measure if it were to reach his desk.

“The governor opposes any legislation that will make Virginia less open and welcoming to people based on their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation,” McAuliffe spokesperson Brian Coy told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “He’s working to build a more equal and more prosperous Virginia and this bill is a step in the wrong direction.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

7 Comments
  • I can understand some type of balance, but this is super restrictive. Time to start writing to the senate!

  • For god’s sake stop trying to be sneaky about. Call it the “we hate the gays and think they should be second class citizens act” Stop pretending this is about “religious freedom” This is about the right wanting to treat LGBT’S like dirt, and to force everyone to live by their brand of Christianity. Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t marry someone of the same gender. Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one. Your rights end where mine begin. If you are so intent and proud of hating the gays then come right out and say it. Where a badge that says “I hate gays and so should you” Change your name from the Republican party, to the I hate the Gays party. For F**K’s sake however, stop pretending you’re protecting “religious freedom” when everyone and their dog knows that you’re trying to protect your right to be a bigot. Be open if it’s that important to you! Be proud of your bigotry! After all it’s all these people seem to be able to think of nowadays.

  • Yup, the Kim Davies incident was just a flash in the pan. That’s what someone tried to tell me. The battle over marriage is over he said. Well, we thought the battle over abortion was won in 1973 yet we still see attempts including legislation to undermine it. Why can’t you get the fact that religious conservatives feel as strongly about marriage as they do about abortion and will keep up the assault on all fronts?

    Just remember that like Obama won’t sadly always be President, McAuliffe won’t be Governor indefinitely either. We may have to face a homophobic Governor one day that would support such a bill. The message is clear, stop taking your rights for granted thinking that the SCOTUS ruling for marriage equality protects that right forever. The decision favoring it was narrow with four conservatives giving strong dissenting opinions.

    Most of our advances have been through the judicial branch. That’s why who sits on the SCOTUS is so important and why you should be very concerned about who fills the vacancy left by Scalia!

  • Hopefully corporate America will have its say and make them think twice before making this law. $$$ talks and boycotts work.

  • Change the motto from “Virginia is for Lovers” to “Virginia is for Haters.”

  • So the bill they passed says government wont’ take “any discriminatory action against a person, in whole or in part, on the
    basis that such person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a
    sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that…marriage is or
    should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman”

    …that means these Virginia politicians are telling people it is okay to “act” on their homicidal faith, that it is okay to physically attack gay couples and their families. How appalling! These politicians should do jail time.

  • So they are trying to pass a bill that would allow people (who are paid by my tax dollars) to discriminate against other Virginians, when they know it will be vetoed and is a waste of time and money?

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