RICHMOND, Va. — Lawmakers in Virginia have passed a bill that prohibits the government from punishing those who believe in biblical marriage and conduct their public lives in accordance with that conviction.
S.B. 1324 passed the Senate on Tuesday 21-19, and now moves on to the House for consideration. The vote was along party lines.
“No person shall be required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage, or subject to any penalty by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions or representatives or agents, notwithstanding any other provision of law, 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 legislation reads.
Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr., R-Grayson, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the bill is necessary to protect citizens from being sued simply because their faith prohibits them from being a partaker in others’ sins.
“And not discriminating against them because of that belief, I believe, is important to our Constitution and important to the economy of Virginia,” he said.
Carrico also pointed to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s recent executive order requiring the state to only enter into government contracts with businesses and organizations that have anti-discrimination policies in place protecting homosexual and transgenders in “its employment practices, subcontracting practices, and delivery of goods or services.”
As previously reported, some believe the order effectively bans Christian entities and faith-based charities from working with the state, since they do not enact such policies out of their conviction that they retain the religious right to decline orders for “gay weddings” and similar celebrations, as well as to hire and fire in accordance with the religious values of the company or non-profit organization.
“It is hereby ordered as the policy of the Executive Branch that it will only contract with those who abide by the non-discrimination policies set forward in Executive Order 1 (2014), namely that discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status is prohibited,” Executive Order 61, signed by Terry McAuliffe on Jan. 5, reads in part.
Among those who decried the order was the Family Foundation of Virginia.
“Virginians should be appalled by this act of blatant religious bigotry,” said President Victoria Cobb. “As Virginia continues to slide further down on the list of states in which it’s best to do business, the Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General have no real solutions other than pandering to their base.”
“This unconstitutional act of intimidation and bullying of businesses and charities that are operated by people of faith, from Christians to Jews to Muslims, is not only unnecessary but dangerous,” she stated. “It is also in direct violation of the Virginia Constitution that states, ‘… the right to be free from any governmental discrimination upon the basis of religious conviction … shall not be abridged.’”
Cobb applauded the advancement of Carrico’s bill this week.
“This vote is a reasonable response to the unconstitutional act of intimidation and bullying of religious charities by Governor McAuliffe, charities that are operated by people of faith, from Christians to Jews to Muslims, that provide a vast array of services to vulnerable populations in Virginia,” she told reporters.
“The faith communities this bill applies to are doing enormous social good in Virginia, including aid to immigrants and refugees, the homeless, the hungry and the elderly. But the governor has targeted these organizations for state-sponsored discrimination because they disagree with his view of marriage,” she lamented.
Homosexual advocacy groups, such as the Human Rights Campaign, decried the bill as “discriminatory legislation that seeks to give taxpayer-funded agencies and service providers a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of religion.”