Gov. McAuliffe promises to veto proposed religious freedom bills targeting same-sex marriages
Updated 4:15 PM
In an email sent to GayRVA, a spokesperson for Governor Terry McAuliffe (top image left) said he would veto two new bills aiming to expand religious freedoms in Virginia.
“Governor McAuliffe believes legislation like this would send the wrong message to people around the globe about the climate Virginia offers businesses and families who may want to locate here,” said Irma Palmer, spokesperson for Governor McAuliffe, about the two bills, submitted by Senator Carrico (top image, right), mentioned bellow which aim to make it harder for same-sex couples to marry. McAuliffe has long said LGBTQ equality is key for the Commonwealth to grow its business markets. Palmer said the Governor supports same-sex marriage and believes “we need to be working to make Virginia more open and welcoming to everyone, not less. Accordingly, he would veto these bills if they pass,”
Two bills by the same Virginia Senator hope to give Virginia county clerks and those allowed to marry people the right to deny marriage licenses and services to same-sex couples if it defies their religious beliefs.
SB 40 and SB 41, both submitted by Senator Charles W. Carrico, Sr. (R-40) from Galax, Virginia, hope to add language which will allowed clerks of the court to “not be required to issue a marriage license if such clerk has an objection to the issuance of such license on personal, ethical, moral, or religious grounds” and “Provides that no individual authorized to solemnize any marriage shall be required to do so and no religious organization shall be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization of any marriage if the action would cause the individual or organization to violate a sincerely held religious belief.”
In an interview with GayRVA, Carrico said the two bills weren’t asked for by any court clerks or state employees, but the call for action on this issue came from his constituents who he said voted firmly in 2006 to support Virginia’s now debunked ban on same-sex marriage.
“I have 200,000 constituents that a vast majority supported marriage as between one man and and one woman,” he said. “They elected me to represent their values and their beliefs and that’s what I’m representing.”
Carrico said same-sex marriage was his specific target on for this bill, and his district’s proximity to states like North Carolina and Kentucky, where action has been taken to allow court clerks to deny marriage licenses, was part of his inspiration.
As for possible controversy which could come from this legislation, Carrico said he wasn’t concerned with pushback from the public or the media.
“I firmly believe marriage is between one man and and one woman. I don’t consult other legislators or outside groups,” he said. “I represent my people… I didn’t come to Richmond to be politically correct.”
As for the second bill, SB 41, which protects individuals who perform marriages from having to performer services against their religious beliefs, Carrico said he knows Virginia’s current religious freedom’s constitutional amendment already gives these protections.
“Its something to comfort our ministers so they don’t have to be concerned over backlashes,” he said, admitting the bill was a bit redundant, but enforced his and his constituents concerns.
Carrico said he didn’t consult or work with any other legislators on these bills, but he acknowledged Virginia House Majority Leader Howell’s call over the summer for more religious freedom bills during the 2016 GA session.
The senator said he believed his religious freedoms bill would not be the only one seen in the next few weeks.
Equality Virginia’s Executive Director James Parrish has cried fowl on Carrico’s bills, saying legislation using the term “religious freedom” are often “a license to discriminate.”
“It is the duty of the clerks of court to issue marriage licenses and that is a tax-payer funded function of their job and they should be issuing licenses to everyone who qualifies,” Parrish said.
While his argument against Carrico’s first bill seems clear enough, the broad nature of the second bill, and the protections already offered by the religious freedom amendment, is what concerned EV.
“Religious leaders and churches are not required to marry same-sex couples, but the problem with this bill is it broadly goes into what a religious organization is,” he said. “Is it a Baptist church? Or does that mean religious businesses open to the public? We’re not sure what he means by a religious institution. Our line is ‘any business that is open to the public is open to all the public’ and there’s not place for discrimination.”
“Religious freedom” laws like this have been condemned by groups like the ACLU who have, in the past, called them discriminatory
According to the US Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“As enshrined in the First Amendment, religious freedom includes two complementary protections: the right to religious belief and expression and a guarantee that the government neither prefers religion over non-religion nor favors particular faiths over others,” reads the ACLU’s opinion on religious freedom laws. “These dual protections work hand in hand, allowing religious liberty to thrive and safeguarding both religion and government from the undue influences of the other.”
This is a developing story, and updates will be added as they come in.
Top image via Carrico
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