Virginia House of Delegates' members approved on Tuesday (Feb. 16) a religious freedom bill that critics assert would allow anti-LGBTZ discrimination, while supporters applaud due to its prohibiting government from taking action against employees who refuse to provide services required in their jobs because those services go against their personal religious beliefs.
Virginia House Democratic Caucus representatives in a press release described HB 773 as "a Kim Davis-inspired bill," referring to the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Virginia's Republican-controlled chamber approved House Bill 773 by a 56-41 vote margin, reports Washington Blade. Virginia Senate members are scheduled to consider HB 773 later this month. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he would veto the measure if it were to reach his desk.
State Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) introduced the new bill, which is also known as the Government Nondiscrimination Act, last month.
Other similar legislation is being considered elsewhere in the United States, as reported by The Gospel Herald: Kim Davis, Clerks Protected By Kentucky Bill, If Passed, On Same-Sex Marriage
HB 773 would prohibit government entities from taking "any discriminatory action against a person, in whole or in part, on the basis that such person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that...marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman." The measure also includes "the male sex and the term 'man' and the female sex and the term 'woman' refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics of the individual at the time of birth."
As a believer of traditional faith and family values Gilbert previously successfully sponsored a new law to protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced, by the government, to place children with same sex couples. He worked to protect religious liberty by passing a law to ensure that religious organizations on the campuses of Virginia public colleges and universities do not have to admit members who do not share their faith or values.
"Giving preference to one person's religious beliefs over those of another is offensive and promotes inequality," said state Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) in the Virginia House Democratic Caucus press release.
"Ensuring that all Virginians are equal in the eyes of the law should be the goal of the General Assembly. Granting a free pass to discriminate is simply wrong."
"The governor opposes any legislation that will make Virginia less open and welcoming to people based on their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation," McAuliffe spokesperson Brian Coy told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. "He's working to build a more equal and more prosperous Virginia and this bill is a step in the wrong direction."