February 12, 2016 at 9:22 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. Senate approves religious freedom bill

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The Virginia Senate on Feb. 12, 2016, narrowly approved a bill that would allow officials to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages based on their religious beliefs.

The Virginia Senate on Friday narrowly approved a bill that would allow officials to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages because of their religious beliefs.

Senate Bill 41 passed by a 20-19 vote margin.

State Sens. Richard Black (R-Loudoun County), Charles Carrico (R-Galax), A. Benton Chafin, (R-Russell County), John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), William DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico County), Thomas Garrett (R-Buckingham County), Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta County), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover County), Stephen Newman (R-Lynchburg), Thomas Norment (R-James City), Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham County), Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania County), Frank Ruff (R-Mecklenburg County), William Stanley (R-Franklin County), Richard Stuart (R-Stafford County), Glen Sturtevant (R-Richmond), David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke County) and Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) voted for SB 41.

State Sens. Kenneth Alexander (D-Norfolk), George Barker (D-Fairfax County), Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg), R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County), Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), John Edwards (D-Roanoke), Barbara Favola (D-Arlington County), Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County), Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack County), Mamie Locke (D-Hampton), Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), David Marsden (D-Fairfax County), A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County), Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William County), John Miller (D-Newport News), J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax County), Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax County), Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun County) opposed SB 41.

State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Winchester) did not vote.

“This bill is thoroughly unnecessary,” said Ebbin as he spoke against SB 41. “It sanctions discrimination by government employees.”

Carrico introduced SB 41 in December. The Galax Republican also sponsored Senate Bill 40, which is a nearly identical measure.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee late last month approved SB 40 by an 8-6 vote margin. Critics described it as a “Kim Davis” bill, referring to the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

SB 40 will now go before the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates.

The Virginia House of Delegates General Laws Committee on Thursday approved House Bill 773, a controversial religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow anti-LGBT discrimination in the commonwealth. The measure, which state Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced, is now before the full House.

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

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