RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed legislation Wednesday aimed at protecting opponents of same-sex marriage, saying it would legalize discrimination of the LGBT community and hurt the state’s economy.
“We cannot have fear and persecution, people being demonized, we’re not going to tolerate that,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said as he signed the veto during his monthly appearance on radio station WTOP.
The measure would prohibit the state from punishing religious groups that refuse services related to gay marriages. Republican supporters said it would protect people expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs.
McAuliffe’s veto comes shortly after GOP-backed legislation related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in other southern states drew national condemnation from corporate America and civil rights groups.
Georgia GOP Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a bill similar to Virginia’s earlier this week while North Carolina 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 McAuliffe’s repeated promises to veto the bill.
It’s the second straight day the governor has vetoed GOP-backed legislation. On Tuesday, he vetoed legislation that sought block state funding for abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
The governor, who has largely staked his legacy on his ability to lure companies to expand and relocate to Virginia, said the social agenda pushed by state Republicans is out of sync with what corporate leaders want.
“They don’t want headaches coming from the state,” McAuliffe said.
Social conservatives condemned McAuliffe’s veto, saying the legislation provided a “modest protection” of religious liberties.
“It is unfortunate that Gov. McAuliffe is so willing to discriminate against people of faith who simply disagree with the secular left’s sexual dogma,” said Victoria Cobb, president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.
Supporters of the measure will still have an opportunity to try and overturn the veto in April, but are highly unlikely to have enough votes to do so.
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