Update: Gov. McAuliffe promises to veto proposed “religious freedom” legislation
According to the Washington Post Governor Terry McAuliffe has promised to Republican delegate’s proposed religious freedoms bill which would further legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Virginians.
“The Virginia statute for religious freedom was written by Thomas Jefferson,” Del. Todd Gilbert, author of the proposed legislation (read more below), told the WaPo. “It is on the wall of the chamber in the House of Delegates. It is as old a principle that we have in this commonwealth that we protect people’s deeply held religious convictions, so this is merely a continuation of that.”
Jefferson, who some say was a Unitarian, did write a law supporting religious freedom in Virginia and it was passed in 1786.
The historians over at Monticello, Jefferson’s estate, said the former president was fairly private about his actual religious beliefs, but he was known to speak highly of reason rather than “blindfoldded fear:”
”Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”1 In Query XVII ofNotes on the State of Virginia, he clearly outlines the views which led him to play a leading role in the campaign to separate church and state and which culminated in the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom: “The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.2
Original post 1/13:
Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15) made a promise last year. After the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Gilbert and VA’s then majority house speaker Bill Howell made it clear their target this General Assembly session would be “protecting religious freedom” and just as the session is set to begin, a new bill aims to do just that.
HB 773, the Government Nondiscrimination Act, aims to “prohibits a government entity from taking any discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”
The bill goes on to define man and woman as an “individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics of the individual at the time of birth.”
It would also not allow the state to deny any service, such as grants, contracts, licenses, or otherwise to a business or organization which refuses to serve LGBTQ people.
The broad language of this bill is similar to one submitted by Del. Bob Marshall last year, HB1414, which would have kept the state from denying any kind of license to an individual if part of the licenses process required them to violate a “religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior.”
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director for the ACLU of Virginia, told GayRVA last year that Marshall’s bill would give “every individual, business, professional who gets any kind of license, registration, or certificate from the state, the locality, or any other agency or authority, board or department which would include every college and university” a license to discriminate.
“It’s like Jim Crow. It’s like a state law that says it’s okay to discriminate against black people and have two different kinds of water fountains,” said Gastañaga.
”[LGBT groups] want to compel a forced acceptance of behavior that for thousands of years people have found to be immoral and gravely harmful to the individual and common good,” said Marshall in defense of his bill.
HB1414 failed to make it out of committee, with Del. Marshall being the sole supporter of the bill, with even the religious conservative group the Family Foundation refused to speak on its behalf at last year’s hearing.
But it seems the Family Foundation has changed their tune this time around and is now supporting Gilbert’s bill.
In a donation request sent out yesterday, Victoria Cobb, President of the FF, said the Government Nondiscrimination Act was, like America, “built on a rich tradition of religious liberty, one where we do all we can to accommodate religious faith and conscience.”
“From business owners to government officials, no room for religious accommodation is being granted by the secular left,” Cobb wrote. “Either be subject [to] its same-sex marriage orthodoxy or there will be consequences, including public rhetorical attacks (everyone’s a bigot) to fines to jail time. And the left is happy to use the full force of government to bludgeon citizens if won’t fall in line.”
LGBTQ Activists are actually pretty worried about this bill.
An unnamed source within the capital told GayRVA that Gilbert’s sponsorship of this bill shows a real commitment from the GOP leadership on the issue. Where as Marshall had become more of a “sideshow” with his anti-LGBTQ antics and bills, Gilbert, a ranking Republican in the house, has the power to sway other legislators on the issue.
Equality Virginia’s Jame Parrish spoke out against HB 773. In a statement he said “The freedom of religion is already protected in Virginia. HB773 is a deceptively named bill that provides a license for taxpayer funded entities to discriminate against gay and lesbian families.”
The 2016 General Assembly starts today, and GayRVA will be following this bill as well as many others in the coming weeks.
New Study: large majority of Americans support LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, oppose ‘bathroom bills’
Support for LGBT rights and religious inclusion has expanded drastically over the past decadeAugust 26, 2016
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