- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday kept his promise to veto a bill that would have allowed religious parishes and wedding vendors to decline service to same-sex couples.

The Democratic governor said the bill’s “legitimate” protections were redundant under the First Amendment and its “additional” protections were unconstitutional and discriminatory against gays and lesbians.

“Any legitimate protections afforded by Senate Bill 41 are duplicative of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“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,” he said. “Such a dynamic is not only unconstitutional, it equates to discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.”

The legislation would have prevented the state from punishing religious groups that refuse to provide wedding-related services to same-sex couples.

State Sen. Charles W. “Bill” Carrico Sr., the Grayson County Republican who sponsored the legislation, said the bill was aimed at protecting ministers and religious organizations who subscribe to a traditional view of marriage in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down state laws barring same-sex marriage.


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Mr. Carrico said the veto is a slap in the face to “millions of Virginians” who believe marriage should be a union “between one man and one woman.”

Gay rights groups praised Mr. McAuliffe for standing up for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“Equality Virginia applauds Governor McAuliffe for fulfilling his promise to veto this discriminatory and destructive bill,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.

Mr. Parrish added that the bill “sought to blatantly and directly discriminate against gay and lesbian couples and families under the guise of religious freedom, and we are thankful to have a governor opposing this and working to make Virginia more open and welcoming for everyone, not less.”

Mr. McAuliffe’s veto comes shortly after Republican-backed legislation related to LGBT rights in other Southern states drew national condemnation from corporate America and civil rights groups.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed a bill similar to Virginia’s earlier this week, while North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory recently signed legislation that, among other things, obligates transgender people to use restrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates.

The fight in Virginia has received significantly less attention, thanks largely to Mr. McAuliffe’s repeated promises to veto the bill.

It was the Virginia governor’s second consecutive day of issuing vetoes. On Tuesday, he nixed a bill that would have divested public funds from Planned Parenthood.

“We are here today to smack down the latest attack on ladies’ healthcare rights,” Mr. McAuliffe said Tuesday at a veto ceremony at a Richmond Planned Parenthood clinic.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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