RICHMOND, Va. — The Democratic governor of Virginia has vetoed a religious freedom bill which would have prohibited the government from punishing those who believe in biblical marriage and conduct their public lives in accordance with that conviction.
“Although couched as a ‘religious freedom’ bill, this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe asserted in a statement on Thursday in rejecting S.B. 2314 and H.B. 2025.
“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 vetoed legislation read.
McAuliffe remarked that the federal and state Constitutions provide adequate protections, and that “any additional protections … that prefers one religious viewpoint—that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman—over all other viewpoints … is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”
McAuliffe likewise opined that such laws are harmful to the economy.
“This legislation is also bad for business and creates roadblocks as we try to build the new Virginia economy. 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,” he stated.
But Christian groups believe that it is McAuliffe who is instead being discriminatory.
“[O]nce again, Governor McAuliffe sided with the radical LGBT lobby and the ACLU in claiming that protecting the faiths of countless churches, religious schools and religious organizations amounts to discrimination and even going so far as to say it equates to ‘demonizing people,'” the Family Foundation of Virginia said in a statement. “The governor, of course, is all too comfortable with demonizing anyone who happens to disagree with him!”
“In reality, these bills would have ensured that a religious charity couldn’t be denied equal access to state benefits because of its belief in traditional marriage–something the governor is trying to do through his Executive Order 61— and that Virginia students who attend Christian universities or colleges like Liberty, Regent or Patrick Henry wouldn’t be denied access to Virginia’s tuition assistance grants because those schools have policies based on marriage between one man and one woman,” it explained.
As previously reported, the bills were introduced in light of Executive Order 61, which requires 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.”
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 and lifestyle standards of the company or non-profit organization.
McAuliffe, who set a record last week for the most vetoes in state history, also vetoed a bill last month that would have defunded the sex-centered giant Planned Parenthood.