December 18, 2015 at 9:07 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Lawmakers in Va., Md., introduce religious freedom bills

Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced two bills that would allow officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland have introduced bills that would allow officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.

Virginia state Sen. Charles Carrico (R-Galax) on Tuesday introduced Senate Bills 40 and 41 ahead of the 2016 legislative session.

“The clerk or deputy clerk shall not be required to issue a marriage license if such clerk has an objection to the issuance of such license on personal, ethical, moral or religious grounds,” reads SB 40.

SB 41 contains similar language.

“No person authorized to perform a marriage ceremony… shall be required to solemnize any marriage, and no religious organization, organization supervised or controlled by or operated in connection with a religious organization, individual employed by a religious organization while acting in the scope of his employment, or clergy member or minister shall be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization of any marriage if the action would cause the individual or organization to violate a sincerely held religious belief,” reads the bill.

“A refusal to solemnize a marriage or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges…shall not give rise to civil or criminal liability or any other action by the commonwealth or a political subdivision to penalize or withhold benefits or privileges, including tax exemptions or governmental contracts, grants, or licenses, from any individual or organization,” it adds.

Maryland state Del. Richard Metzgar (R-Baltimore County) has introduced a similar bill.

“An official of a religious order or body authorized by the rules and customs of that order or body to perform a marriage ceremony may not be required to solemnize or officiate any particular marriage or religious rite of any marriage in violation of the rules, customs or religious beliefs of the religious order or body,” reads House Bill 16.

Irma Palmer, a spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, on Thursday told the Washington Blade that the Democrat would veto both of Carrico’s bills if they were to reach his desk.

“Governor McAuliffe believes legislation like this would send the wrong message to people around the globe about the climate Virginia offers businesses and families who may want to locate here,” said Palmer. “He supports same-sex marriage and believes we need to be working to make Virginia more open and welcoming to everyone, not less.”

A spokesperson for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told the Blade that he will not “take a position” on Metzgar’s bill until it goes through the legislative process.

Advocates in both states criticized the measures.

“Equality Virginia applauds Gov. McAuliffe for his immediate promise to veto both of these bills,” Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish told the Blade. “He understands these types of bills send the wrong message about Virginia and we are thankful for his leadership in making the commonwealth a more welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and play for everyone.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence earlier this year sparked outrage — including calls to boycott his state — after he signed a controversial religious freedom law that critics contend allows business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples. Outgoing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in May issued an executive order “to prevent the state from discriminating against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Larry Jacobs, chair of the Equality Maryland board of directors, told the Blade on Thursday that his organization is “surprised” that Metzgar “seems to be searching for a solution to a non-existent problem.”

“We thought that Maryland legislators would have learned from states such as Indiana where these ‘license to discriminate’ bills have created nothing but trouble for their sponsors,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs expressed confidence that Maryland lawmakers will reject Metzgar’s bill once the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

“This bill is mean-spirited and unnecessary,” said Jacobs.

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


    I live in md. this is an example of how the extremists never give up, but n MD thiis is prob a ruse to get the repubs vote up in next years election, probably behind these two large churches

  • So much for the marriage equality fight being over following the SCOTUS ruling.

    Yes, Kim Davies was just a flash in the pan.

    As I said before, the social conservatives continue to find different ways to get around the law just like they keep pushing gimmicks to get around abortion rights.

  • It’s time to take the issue to congress. See who’s willing to put up or lose votes.

  • Too much with religion in this country… and then we criticize other countries for religious extremism, or that they mix the state and church – which is exactly what happens here, only that the churches (like everything else) are privatized in America.

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