ACLU: Gov. McAuliffe further entrenches discrimination into Virginia law

state-capitol2Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed Senate Bill 330 into law on Thursday to license genetic counselors that includes a so-called “conscience clause.” The “conscience clause” will allow these state-licensed healthcare professionals to refuse service to patients based on the counselors’ “deeply held moral or religious beliefs.”

“This bill grants genetic counselors a license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom,” said Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Discrimination under the cloak of religion is nothing new, and the fallacy of this rhetoric is as clear now as it was 50 years ago when restaurant owners used it to challenge integration. With his pen, Governor McAuliffe could have drawn a line in the sand. He could have said that discrimination stops here. Instead, he doubled down on a discriminatory trend that is sweeping the nation. This issue is black and white, you either support discrimination or you oppose it. Today, Governor McAuliffe stands with those who support it.”

In addition, Senate Bill 330 ensures that genetic counselors who refuse service on religious grounds will not face disciplinary action or actions for damages even if their refusal causes actual physical harm to their patients.

“This provision makes a bad bill much worse,” said Gastañaga. “Because of this protection, genetic counselors who intentionally withhold information from their patients will not face justice for their actions, even if those actions result in physical or emotional harm to their patient.”

“The ACLU of Virginia is working to reverse this trend, and will continue to educate Governor McAuliffe about the true impact of this type of legislation,” said Gastañaga. “We are hopeful that Governor McAuliffe will recognize these concerns and work with us to reverse this trend.”

On March 10, 2014 the ACLU of Virginia sent Governor McAuliffe a letter urging him to veto Senate Bill 330. The letter can be viewed here.

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