February 20, 2017 at 5:07 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Va. religious freedom bill receives final approval

Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

The Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 20, 2017, gave final approval to a religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Virginia House of Delegates on Monday gave final approval to a religious freedom bill that critics contend would allow discrimination against same-sex couples.

Lawmakers approved House Bill 2025 by a 54-38 vote margin.

HB 2025 would not require any person, religious organization or affiliates to “participate in the solemnization of any marriage” if it conflicts 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 that state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) introduced would also prohibit Virginia officials from punishing those who refuse to take part in a gay or lesbian wedding because of their religious beliefs.

“Today is a sad day for the people of Virginia,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish in a statement. “Instead of working to find solutions to the real problems we face as a state, our lawmakers are pushing shameful legislation providing a license to discriminate against loving LGBTQ families.”

The Human Rights Campaign described HB 2025 as a “dangerous anti-LGBTQ proposal.”

“Let’s be clear, HB 2025 is nothing more than a thinly veiled legislative assault on LGBTQ Virginians and visitors to the state,” said HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “The measure has nothing to do with the right to practice one’s religion — which is already firmly protected in the U.S. Constitution — and everything to do with enshrining taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ people into law.”

Both Winterhof and Parrish noted the economic impact that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — which bans transgender people from using public bathrooms that are consistent with their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures — in their criticism of HB 2025.

“We don’t want to be the next North Carolina,” said Parrish.

The Virginia Senate last year failed to override Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of a similar religious freedom bill.

McAuliffe has said he would also veto HB 2015 if it were to reach his desk.

We applaud Gov. McAuliffe’s promise to veto HB 2025 which will send a clear message that this legislation does not represent the values we hold dear as Virginians,” said Parrish.

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

1 Comment
  • Relgious ‘freedom laws are unnecessary but considering that Virginia is the home of such hate groups as Liberty University and other such institutions and churches—we should not be surprised..
    The Consitution says that we have the right to worship as we please but there are rerstrictions because religious ‘freedom’ is not absolute–these restrictions are that we must contain our worship practices within the Constitution and the other laws of the land. Thus just because our religion calls for us to sacrifice a virgin to a volcano so that the sun rises the next morning we may not do that.

    The Constitution also says that we have the right to be absolutely Free of religion. These paranoid revisionist history psuedo-christians folks who claim that they are being discriminated against just do not know the law., Judges say that ignorance of the law is no excuse and they should not impose or try to get State and church in bed with each other nor should they have the right to discriminate against you because you are not christian or your sexual orientation iviolates a caon of their faith. We see where that leads in the Case of Father Bruno who was murdered by the Catholic church because he spoke the truth or Galleo. This county was not founded upon religious freedom; it was founded upon the right to be FREE of religion in our lives. The United States of America did not exist when the Puritans landed here and we see what their extremist Calvinistic laws led to–the murder of innocent folks in the Salem Witch Trials.

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