Virginia Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Religious Institutions Opposed to Gay Marriage

SAMUEL SMITH, CHRISTIAN POST

The Virginia Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would protect the rights of religious institutions to operate in accordance with their religious beliefs on marriage without fear of government backlash.

The legislation, SB 1324, passed with a narrow 21-19 vote along party lines.

The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Charles Carrico, “provides that no person shall be required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage or subject to any penalty by the Commonwealth, or its political subdivisions or representatives or agents, solely on account of such person’s belief, speech, or action 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 specifically defines the term “person” to include any religious organization, organizations connected with religious organizations, individuals employed by the religious organization who are acting in the scope of their volunteer or paid duties, any representative or agent of a religious organization and clergy members.

The bill comes after the Virginia House passed a similar bill introduced by Del. Nick Freitas, HB 2025, last Thursday.

The measures come after Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order in January that bans LGBT-discrimination from state contractors and state employees. McAuliffe vowed in issuing his executive order that “the commonwealth of Virginia will not do business with entities that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”