Augusta Free Press

Religious refusal bill passes Virginia Senate

The Virginia Senate voted Friday to approve Grayson Republican Sen. Bill Carrico’s SB 41, which would entitle religious organizations and affiliated businesses to refuse to provide services or goods in connection with a marriage solemnization “if the action would cause the [actor] to violate a sincerely held religious belief.”

On a party-line procedural vote, the Senate also declined to consider a floor amendment from Sen. Adam Ebbin (D – Alexandria) seeking to repeal now-invalid statutory impediments to marriage equality.

Said Sen. Ebbin, “This bill is thoroughly unnecessary. It sanctions discrimination by government employees. We are the birthplace of the Statute for Religious Freedom. We enjoy one of the richest histories of any state when it comes to that freedom. Proposals like these — licenses to discriminate — desecrate the very things they claim to protect. This bill would carve out a space for bigotry cloaked under the guise of religious freedom.”

Said Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), “We should always work to prevent discrimination — but instead, this bill would legalize discrimination. Religious freedom means we have the ability to worship as we please; it does not mean we have the right to impose our beliefs on others. I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues would pervert a fundamental right to foster unacceptable behavior.”

SB 41 is opposed by — among others — the ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia, and the Virginia state conference of the NAACP.

Common arguments against the substance of the bill are outlined here.