Virginia GOP promises to fight for “God-given” right to discriminate after Supreme Court marriage decision
After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage last month, Virginia’s GOP leaders promised to make “religious liberties,” a concept used to allow businesses and individuals to recuse themselves from LGBTQ related activities, a top priority in the next year.
Religious freedom laws, like those almost passed in Arizona in February, 2014, and Indiana late last year, have been called discriminatory by civil rights and LGBTQ advocacy groups and have lead to disastrous PR incidents for the governments responsible for their passage.
“It is paramount that the religious liberties of all Virginians be respected,” wrote Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell in a statement on his website. “While we must and will abide by the law, we must also ensure that the God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion is not diminished in light of this ruling. The House of Delegates will fight to uphold this principle.”
Republican Del. C. Todd Gilbert (top image, left) echoed those concerns in an interview with the Times-Dispatch saying “protections of religious liberties will be “the primary focus” for the House GOP next year.”
Gilbert went on to tell the TD SCTOUS’s move was a result of the lefts efforts “to tear down religious institutions and the belief systems that support them.”
Del. Bob Marshall (top image, right), one of the author’s of Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, wrote an OpEd for the Augusta Free Press saying SCOTUS disregarded the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and “will fundamentally compromise and seriously erode the bonds of allegiance by the most patriotic of citizens, to government at all levels because this is not the America of the Founder’s vision!”
In another OpEd, this time for the Western Journal, Marshall suggested ways Congress could block the SCOTUS decision:
The Appropriations power of Congress can and must be used to block implementation of unlawful rulings by out-of-control federal judges. Members of Congress would simply attach amendments to pending Appropriations bills later this summer to prevent the Obama Administration from implementing the pro-same sex marriage decision.
Marshall, who helped craft Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, was the author and lone supporter of a religious freedom bill proposed earlier this year.
The bill, HB1414, stated a person would not be required to “perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action” as a condition of “obtaining or renewing a government-issued license, registration, or certificate” if such actions would “violate the religious or moral convictions of such person.”
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director for the ACLU of Virginia, told GayRVA 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.
The bill didn’t to make it out of committee, and during its hearing, Marshall failed to garner any support from fellow GOP members or even the traditionally anti-LGBTQ Richmond based Family Foundation.
Marshall was disappointed with the bill’s defeat, saying ”[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.”
Marshall promised to return in 2016 with similar laws and it seems comments by Howell and Gilbert might support that cause.
Howell did send a letter to members of the Virginia Code Commission saying SCOTUS’s ruling allows same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth, despite current Virginia law. He said there was no need to make changes in the state code, but “we respectfully request the Code Commission begin to evaluate what, if any, changes are necessary to ensure Virginia’s Code remains consistent with current federal law.”
Attempts to update Virginia’s code to be LGBTQ inclusive failed to get out of committee during the 2015 General Assembly, 3 months after marriage equality had arrived in Virginia.
Virginia has a history of keeping debunked laws on the books – sodomy was still against the law in the Commonwealth until March 2014, over a decade after the Supreme Court ruled against it.
Virginia Democrats and LGBTQ advocates have already fired back against GOP talk of religious freedoms.
“There are some people that are scared that the sky is going to fall and all our liberties are going to be taken away,” House Minority Leader David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville told the TD. “I will speak loudly and clearly against any notion that we are going to compromise religious liberty or freedom. But I also will speak very strongly against using religion as a rationale for discrimination.”
The Commonwealth already has two religious freedoms bills in place – one which allows state-funded adoption agencies to deny adoptions based on their “conscious,” and one that allows genetic counselors to refuse care to clients if it violates their deeply hold religious or moral beliefs.
Equality Virginia set to release legislative report card for the first time since 2013 despite GOP’s efforts to quash votes
“Our membership, especially around things like the bathroom bill, will want to know who voted for what,” he said.March 8, 2016
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