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Virginia House of Delegates Passes Dangerous Anti-LGBTQ ‘License to Discriminate’ Legislation

Today, HRC and Equality Virginia strongly condemned the Virginia House of Delegates for passing HB 2025 — discriminatory legislation that seeks to give taxpayer-funded agencies and service providers a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of religion. The dangerous anti-LGBTQ proposal will now move to the Senate for consideration.

“The Virginia House of Delegates’ decision to pass this legislation puts the state’s people, reputation, and economy at risk,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “This reckless bill in truth has nothing to do with the right to practice one’s religion, which is already firmly protected by the First Amendment. Rather, it is a thinly veiled attempt to provide a special license to discriminate with taxpayer funds. The discriminatory measure would no doubt result in multiple, expensive legal challenges and fallout similar to the self-inflicted wound in North Carolina from HB2. The Virginia Senate must reject this legislative assault on LGBTQ Virginians and their families.”

“We recognize that religion is a vital part of many Virginians’ daily lives, but HB 2025 does not protect religious liberty. Instead, it provides a license to discriminate against loving LGBTQ families,” said Equality Virginia Executive Director James Parrish.  Furthermore, its broad and vague definition of ‘person’ would set a dangerous precedent for discriminatory individuals and groups to be protected by our religious freedom laws.”

HB 2025 could allow taxpayer-funded organizations like homeless shelters and adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples, transgender people, and anyone suspected of having intimate relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage (such as single mothers or a cohabiting straight couple) without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, or other forms of state recognition.  

A similar discriminatory proposal was vetoed in 2016 by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Last summer, a Mississippi law with similar intentions  — HB 1523 — was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves just before it would have gone into effect. That law, deceptively titled “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” enabled almost any individual or organization to discriminate against LGBTQ Mississippians at work, at school and in their communities. It remains pending at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The fallout over North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2 law has been swift and severe, and it is a clear warning to lawmakers across the country considering anti-LGBTQ proposals. Following passage in March of 2016, HB2 triggered a national outcry of opposition and a broad range of voices continue to speak out demanding its full and complete repeal. The economic fallout alone includes hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business. In November, former North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory became the only incumbent governor from either party to lose on Election Day specifically because he championed and signed HB2 into law.

The attack on fairness and equality in Virginia is part of an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills being pushed in 2017 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking 60 anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in 19 states. For more information, visit http://hrc.im/2017legislature.