Virginia’s Governor Vows to Veto False “Religious Freedom” Bills

As predicted, legislators in Virginia have been busy preparing legislation for the 2016 state legislative session. Although the General Assembly does not officially begin for a few weeks, state Senator Charles Carrico has already pre-filed two bills that relate to marriage and “religious freedom.” Rather than protect real religious freedom, these bills would allow individuals to discriminate against LGBT couples in the name of religion. Fortunately, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has said that he will veto these bills if they were to pass.

SB 40 would allow clerks and deputy clerks – government officials – to refuse to issue marriage licenses based on “personal, ethical, moral, or religious grounds.” Such a bill would effectively allow discrimination against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses, as well as many others, including previously divorced persons or interfaith couples. SB 41 would provide a religious exemption for private businesses, allowing them to use religion as a reason to deny “services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges related to the solemnization of marriage.”

The bills’ sponsor admitted that no government clerk or state employee had asked for such an exemption. Yet, he is still pushing two bills that could deny the rights of many Virginians.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s veto threat from LGBTQ Nation:

“Governor McAuliffe believes legislation like this would send the wrong message to people around the globe about the climate Virginia offers businesses and families who may want to locate here,” said Irma Palmer, spokesperson for Governor McAuliffe, about the two bills, submitted by Senator Carrico . . . . McAuliffe has long said LGBTQ equality is key for the Commonwealth to grow its business markets. Palmer said the Governor supports same-sex marriage and believes “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.”

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These are not the only of Senator Carrico’s bills that Governor McAuliffe has threatened to veto. He has stated he will also veto the Senator’s bill to reauthorize the Confederate flag on state license plates. 

Elise Helgesen Aguilar

Elise Helgesen Aguilar is the Federal Legislative Counsel at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Elise graduated cum laude from the University of Florida Law School in 2011. There, she was Executive Articles Editor for the Journal of Law and Public Policy as well as the founder and president of the University of Florida ACLU. After law school, Elise worked on voting rights and electoral reform as a Legal Fellow with FairVote. She also worked on successful Congressional campaigns in both Florida and Virginia. Elise graduated cum laude from the College of William and Mary in 2008 with a B.A. in Government. She is originally from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.