RICHMOND, Va. --Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed Wednesday a bill that gay rights groups compared to legislation vetoed in Georgia earlier this week.
Senate Bill 41, also known as the religious freedom bill, would have provided protection for any official who refused to perform a same-sex wedding because of their religious beliefs.
However, opponents, including the governor, said the First Amendment and Virginia's Religious Freedom Restoration Act already protect those beliefs, and they claim the bill would have legalized discrimination and shielded those who discriminate against same-sex couples from civil liability.
Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, who introduced the bill, said by vetoing the bill McAuliffe "is expressing the will of the Obama Administration that tramples on the foundation in which this country is built on."
"This simple legislation was meant to protect ministers who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman and who do not believe in same sex marriage according to their faith and the veto is a slap in the face of all those who believe in religious freedom."
As a result, Carrico said ministers are not protected from being "prosecuted and persecuted."
He also said the Supreme Court overstepped its authority when legalizing same-sex marriage since Virginians voted in 2006 to make marriage between one man and one woman.
On the other hand, Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker lauded the veto.
"Moments ago, Governor McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have granted a far-reaching license to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community and their families," Democratic Party of Virginia Chairwoman Susan Swecker said in a statement. "Look no further than our neighbor in North Carolina to see the damaging effects of this type of legislation."
There does not appear to be enough votes in the House and Senate to override the veto.
On Tuesday, McAuliffe vetoed legislation passed by the General Assembly to eliminate funding for Planned ParenthoodTuesday morning.
Supporters of the Republican-backed bill maintained it would take money away from the organization and reroute the funds to healthcare groups providing comprehensive care to families. However, opponents said it would limit women's health rights.
Governor's Full Statement
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 41, which would shield from civil liability those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples.
Although couched as a “religious freedom” bill, this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize. Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 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 41 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.