Virginia Governor Vetoes Antigay 'Religious Liberty' Bill

Virginia Governor

Virgina Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a "religious liberty" bill today that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT people based on their religious opposition to same-sex marriage. 

The bill would have prevented the state from penalizing businesses and individuals who cite faith-based grounds for discriminating against same-sex couples, transgender people, and people who have sex outside of marriage. In February, The Advocate reported that it was unlikely the bill would become law, as the Democratic governor had pledged to veto the measure.

In a statement published today, Gov. McAuliffe called the bill "nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize." The protections included in the bill were written in a manner that "prefers one religious viewpoint—that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman—over all other viewpoints," he said. The bill is "not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom."

McAuliffe called the bill "bad for business," saying job creators do not want to do business with a state that appears to be "demonizing" its citizens. The governor pointed to how "religious liberty" bills have affected the economy in other states, without naming any specific state. "We need only look at the damage these types of laws are doing in other states to understand the harm this bill could bring to our Commonwealth and its economy," he said. 

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called McAuliffe’s veto "an important signal about the importance of fairness and equal treatment for all under the law.” 

McAuliffe's veto comes just two days after Georgia's Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar antigay "religious liberty" bill in his state, after facing intense pressure from the business community, as well as from Hollywood, and the NFL, which threatened to boycott the state if the anti-LGBT measure passed. 

"I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives," said Deal in his televised remarks Monday.

The vetoes in Virginia and Georgia stand in stark contrast to North Carolina, which passed a sweeping anti-LGBT law on March 23, striking down all existing municipal LGBT nondiscrimination protections, and barring transgender people from accessing public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

The backlash to North Carolina's anti-LGBT bill has been swift, as several governors and mayors have ordered an end to all non-essential official business travel to the state, while high-profile tech CEOs and businesses have urged the state to repeal the law, and the NBA has threatened to boycott North Carolina in the wake of its anti-LGBT law. 

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