March 30, 2016 at 10:26 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
McAuliffe vetoes religious freedom bill
Washington Blade, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on March 30, 2016, vetoed a religious freedom bill that critics said would have allowed anti-LGBT discrimination. (Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a religious freedom bill that critics said would have allowed anti-LGBT discrimination.

McAuliffe said in a statement that Senate Bill 41 is “nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize.”

“This legislation is also bad for business and creates roadblocks as we try to build the new Virginia economy,” he said. “Businesses and job creators do not want to locate or do business in states that appear more concerned with demonizing people than with creating a strong business climate.”

“Legislation that immunizes the discriminatory actions of certain people and institutions at the expense of same-sex couples would damage Virginia’s reputation for commonsense, pro-business government,” added McAuliffe. “We need only look at the damage these types of laws are doing in other states to understand the harm this bill could bring to our Commonwealth and its economy.”

State Sen. Charles Carrico (R-Galax) introduced SB 41 that received final approval earlier this month.

James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, in a statement applauded McAuliffe for “fulfilling his promise to veto this discriminatory and destructive bill.”

“Senator Carrico’s bill sought to blatantly and directly discriminate against gay and lesbian couples and families under the guise of religious freedom,” said Parrish.

Gay state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) also welcomed McAuliffe’s veto.

“SB 41 sent a clear signal to LGBT Virginians,” the Alexandria Democrat told his supporters in an email. “It said: ‘You’re not welcome here. Your rights matter less.’ That message is unacceptable, and it’s unworthy of our commonwealth.”

Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, criticized McAuliffe.

“This legislation would have protected the rights of religious Virginians and the associations they form to speak and act in the public square in accordance with their beliefs,” said Cobb in a statement. “It is unfortunate that Governor McAuliffe is so willing to discriminate against people of faith who simply disagree with the secular left’s sexual dogma.”

McAuliffe’s veto comes two days after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced that he would not sign a controversial religious freedom bill that sparked outrage among LGBT rights advocates. Lawmakers in Mississippi and other states have considered similar measures in recent months.

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

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