Gov. McAuliffe Vetoes Bill Seeking Religious Protections
Governor Terry McAuliffe (FILE IMAGE)
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed Republican-backed legislation that would bar the government from punishing anyone who refuses to participate in same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, vetoed similar legislation last year. Republican supporters say the measure is necessary to protect religious freedom.
But the governor said as he signed the veto Thursday while on WTOP-FM that the Constitution already protects legitimate religious freedoms and the vetoed legislation is designed to stigmatize couples. McAuliffe says if the legislation had become law, it would have been detrimental to the state's economy.
The governor, who is often at odds with the GOP-controlled General Assembly over social issues, has now vetoed more bills than any other Virginia governor.
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Release from the Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe:
Governor Terry McAuliffe today vetoed Senate Bill 1324 and House Bill 2025, identical bills that would shield from civil liability those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples. The Governor’s full statement is below:
March 23, 2017 Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 1324, which would shield from civil liability those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples. I vetoed this exact same bill last year, and my rationale for that veto remains the same.
Although couched as a “religious freedom” bill, this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize. Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 1324 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; Article I, Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia; and the Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Any additional protections are styled in a manner that prefers one religious viewpoint—that marriage can only validly exist between a man and a woman—over all other viewpoints. Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.
This legislation is also bad for business and creates roadblocks as we try to build the new Virginia economy. Businesses and job creators do not want to locate or do business in states that appear more concerned with demonizing people than with creating a strong business climate. Legislation that immunizes the discriminatory actions of certain people and institutions at the expense of same-sex couples would damage Virginia’s reputation for commonsense, pro-business government. 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.
We should be pursuing policies to make Virginia a more vibrant and welcoming place to live, work, and raise a family. Senate Bill 1324 would accomplish the opposite by making Virginia unwelcome to same-sex couples, while artificially engendering a sense of fear and persecution among our religious communities.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Sincerely, Terence R. McAuliffe
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