The Roanoke Times and Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that the Virginia House of Delegates has voted to
grant broad protections to private entities that hold religious views against gay marriage, transgender people and those who have sex outside of marriage.
Supporters said the controversial bill, approved on a 56-41 vote, would prevent government persecution of people of faith, but critics said it would allow some Virginians to be treated as “second-class citizens.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to block the legislation, but the floor vote offered a test of the Republican-controlled chamber’s appetite to take on a red-hot social issue. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting against House Bill 773, titled the Government Non-Discrimination Act. Three Republicans did not vote.
The House also passed a bill restricting funding to Planned Parenthood – also expected to be vetoed by the governor. Republican Todd Gilbert sponsored the religious protections bill, speaking on behalf of businesses and people of faith:
“They are not satisfied with equality,” said Gilbert. “And they will not be satisfied until people of faith are driven out of discourse. Are made to cower. Are made to live in fear of speaking their minds.”
From the other side of the argument:
In an emotional speech, Del. Mark Sickles, D-Fairfax, one of two openly gay state lawmakers, said the vote would send a message to businesses considering moving to Virginia.
“They don’t need to come here where people are second-class citizens when we pass legislation like this,” Sickles said.
“I don’t see how you can interpret it any other way than a license to discriminate,” said House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville.
A summary of the bill:
The bill would prevent state agencies from altering tax treatment or canceling or reducing funding, contracts or other benefits for private entities based on beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex should only occur within marriage or that the terms man and woman are based solely on biological sex.
Virginia governor Terry Mcauliffe has said he would veto the bill.