House and Senate bills that advocates believe will legalize discrimination against LGBTQ folks in a variety of situations are working their way through the Virginia General Assembly this week.
Today, in a Senate General Laws committee hearing, HB 2025, authored by Del. Freitas (R- 30) by a vote of 8-7.
Before the bill was passed it was amended to match its Senate counter part, SB 1324. This senate version, submitted by Sen. Carrico, is an exact copy of a bill he submitted last year – that legislation passed the House and Senate and was vetoed by McAuliffe weeks later.
Both bills, known as a solemnization bills, aim to shield any “person” from punishment from the state, civil or otherwise, if they deny services in a same-sex marriage. 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 aims to protect pastors and other faith leaders in churches from civil or criminal punishment if they deny services to same-sex couples. However the bill has also been 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.
The bill was amended and passed without comment and the vote was along party lines with no surprises.
Sen. Carrico’s bill now heads to the House General Laws Committee where it is set to similarly be passed with little debate or issue.
Gov. McAuliffe has promised to veto this bill along with any other bill which could negatively impact LGBTQ Virginians.
“We appreciate the governor has promised to veto this bill as he did to a similar bill last year,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia who attended today’s meeting. “Sb 1324 and HB 2025 are not religious freedom bill’s. They are nothing short of licenses to discriminate.”