Vague anti-same-sex marriage bill passes Virginia House, heads to Senate next week
A vaguely worded bill that activists have called government-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ people passed a full floor vote at the Virginia House today.
HB2025, also known as Religious freedom; solemnization of marriage, passed with a 57 to 37 vote.
Submitted by Delegate Nicholas J. Freitas (R -30, Culpepper, top image left), HB2025 offers a shield to any “person” from punishment from the state, civil or otherwise, if they deny services in a same-sex marriage.
As a solemnization bill, it defines a person as a “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.”
In layman’s terms, it aimed to protect pastors and other faith leaders in churches from civil or criminal punishment if they denied services to same-sex couples. However the bill was also interpreted by some activists to include other faith-based organizations like church run schools or hospitals, giving them the ability to refuse visitation rights by same-sex couples, or deny the children of same-sex parents in parochial programs.
“I fundamentally don’t believe that the government should be coercing people to do things that they don’t want to do,” said Del. Freitas in defense of the bill. “I take a fairly broad view of that. We don’t want to be engaging in bigoted discrimination, but when the government is engaged in a form of discrimination against a religious institution, it may require us to pass certain bills.”
While speaking in opposition of the bill at its second reading, Del. Marcus Simon (D- 53, Fairfax, top image, right) claimed that there are already statutes in place that protect religious organizations from violating their faith, such as denying to a wed a couple if they are of different faiths or, or in this case, a same-sex couple.
“I think it’s going to send the wrong message to the rest of the United States,” Simon said. “It’s going to say that we are on the same side as North Carolina. That we are on the wrong side of this argument. That we are not welcoming to all kinds of people, regardless of who they love.”
“It’s not the message we want to send if we want to have a 21st Century Virginia economy,” he said.
The 2016 GA session featured a bill matching HB2025 and it similarly passed the House and Senate as HB2025 is expected to as well.
This lead to Gov. McAuliffe vetoing the legislation because “any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
A shared sentiment to those who spoke in favor of the bill such as Del. Robert Orroch (R- 54th District), and Del. Bob Marshall (R- 13th District), is their frustration with Gov. McAuliffe’s vow to veto any bills that would constrain Virginians based on their sexual orientations or gender identities.
Gov. McAuliffe recently signed an executive order that expands workplace protections to LGBTQ employees of state-contracted business and customers of state services. The step mirrors one taken in 2014 by President Obama for federal contractors.
“I wish we didn’t have to do legislation like this,” Orroch said. “The Supreme Court ruled on this issue, and I think with the legislation we have before us, we’re actually poking a sore that none of us want to poke… I think the Governor has precipitated a circumstance where we need to do something.”
Having passed the House today, the bill will now cross over for review by a Senate committee in the coming weeks.
This is an ongoing story and GayRVA.com will continue to provide coverage of the 2017 General Assembly session. Stick with us for updates.
“I’m not letting his misogyny define me, define my daughter or define my community.”April 21, 2017
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