RICHMOND, Va. — The Democratic governor of Virginia has vetoed a religious freedom bill providing protections for pastors and non-profit faith-based organizations who believe in biblical marriage.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who had just vetoed a bill stripping the abortion giant Planned Parenthood of funding the day prior, announced Wednesday that he was also putting a stop to S.B. 41 surrounding religious freedom and marriage.
“We should be pursuing policies to make Virginia a more vibrant and welcoming place to live, work, and raise a family,” he said in a statement. “Senate Bill 41 would accomplish the opposite by making Virginia unwelcome to same-sex couples, while artificially engendering a sense of fear and persecution among our religious communities. Accordingly, I veto this bill.”
“No person shall be required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage or subject to any penalty, any civil liability, or any other action by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions or representatives or agents, solely on account of such person’s belief, speech, or action 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 bill reads in part.
It defines a person as “any 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 paid or volunteer employment, successor, representative, agent, agency, or instrumentality of any of the foregoing, or clergy member or minister.”
Bill sponsor, Sen. Charles Carrico Sr., R-Grayson, told reporters that the measure was crafted to provide protections to pastors and religious schools.
“It’s just a matter of time, I feel, before someone tries to sue the church,” he told the Washington Post. “I think you see a trend around the country right now to promote homosexual beliefs, and I think you see that trend happening on a wide-scale basis.”
S.B. 41 passed the Senate in early February 20-19 and 59-38 in the House in early March.
Christian and family groups in the state are expressing disappointment over McAuliffe’s veto.
“Disagreement over the nature and purpose of marriage is not going to disappear simply because the Supreme Court created a mythological right to redefine marriage,” Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia, said 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.”
It is believed that there are insufficient votes to obtain a majority to override the veto.