- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia’s House of Delegates has approved a bill that seeks to protect people who oppose same-sex marriage and extramarital sex.

The measure would prohibit the state from punishing individuals and businesses that refuse services or taking other actions against same-sex couples, transgender people or someone who has sex outside marriage.

The Republican-controlled House voted 53-46 to send the bill to the Senate on Tuesday.

In an emotional debate, opponents said the measure would open the door to discrimination and hurt Virginia’s reputation.

But Republican Del. Todd Gilbert, the bill’s sponsor, said the state must protect same-sex marriage opponents, who he said find themselves “constantly under attack by the shifting cultural winds.”

The bill seeks to block the state from withholding grants, contracts and other services from such groups.

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