Sen. Carles Carrico has been making headlines all over GayRVA this GA session – when he’s not comparing being gay to having cancer or backing religious freedom bills, he’s advocating for a bill which would allow County Clerks to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
SB 40, submitted by Carrico, (R-40) from Galax, Virginia, hopes 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 earlier this month, Carrico said the bill wasn’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.”
In a Richmond Sunlight post, the ACLU of Virginia said they strongly opposed the bill because public officials, especially elected ones, take an oath to uphold the laws, and with same-sex marriage being legal, they must do their jobs.
“Freedom of religion is not a license to discriminate,” reads the comment. “‘Conscience’ would not permit a public official to choose not to serve people of color or people with disabilities or all women or all men, nor should it be allowed to be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT Virginians.”
According to the Washington Post, Senate Democrats have been referring to the legislation as a “Kim Davis Bill” as it would allow county clerks like Davis to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Carrico told the WaPo when Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring refused to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban, he ignored his duty as an elected official and opened the door for other public officials to do the same.
“That argument went two ways,” he said. “They can’t say that it applies to the clerk but it doesn’t apply to the attorney general.”
Herring has argued he didn’t defend the state’s ban because it was not constitutionally sound.
“The AG’s office has concluded that VA’s laws denying the right to marry to same-sex couples violate the fourteenth amendment of the US Constitution,” read a preliminary statement of the brief filed in support of the plaintiffs suing Virginia over its band back in 2014. “The AG will not defend VA’s ban on same-sex marriage.”
Shortly after we broke the news about Carrico’s bill, Gov. McAuliffe’s office sent GayRVA a statement saying he’d promise to veto any legislation that made Virginia less welcoming.
“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,” he said.
SB 40 passed a Senate Committee yesterday by voice vote, it now heads to the full Senate for a floor vote in the coming weeks.