Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Virginia's Dangerous "Religious Freedom" Legislation

Today Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed SB 1324/HB 2025, a combination First Amendment Defense Act and Pastor Protection Act that would have allowed religion to be used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ Virginians. In his veto statement, Governor McAuliffe called the bill “unconstitutional” and stated that any bill that privileges one religious belief “equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”

And then he summed up the problems with the legislation:

He’s right. The legislation would have allowed a range of individuals and organizations—including those that receive taxpayer funding to perform social services—to refuse, based on religion, to provide any service to LGBTQ couples and their families. Indeed, it could have allowed for a taxpayer-funded homeless shelter to deny a same-sex couple a place to stay or an after-school program to reject a student because her parents are a same-sex couple.

The bill also could have permitted any religiously affiliated institution that rents a venue to the general public for weddings to turn away any couple, for instance interfaith, interracial, or same-sex couples, because of the institution’s religious beliefs. 

In other words, the bill could have caused real harm to real people in the Commonwealth.

Americans United and our allies fought this bill every step of the way in both the House and Senate. On March 7, we sent a letter to Governor McAuliffe urging him to veto the bill, explaining that the legislation violated the fundamental rights of LGBTQ Virginians. We applaud him for standing up for the people of his Commonwealth and opposing this bill.