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Virginia religious freedom bills face likely veto

(WHSV)
Published: Feb. 15, 2017 at 6:34 PM EST
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Two so-called religious freedom bills making their way through the Virginia General Assembly face a doubtful future if delivered to Gov. McAuliffe's desk.

HB 2025 and SB 1324 would ensure no religious organization would be required to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony or be penalized by the state for their opposition to a marriage between two men or women.

While no one is currently forced to perform a same sex marriage ceremony, the bills target the withholding of state grants, loans, scholarships or contracts.

An executive order,

, prohibits contracts of over $10,000 to sources who discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dean Welty, the Director of the Valley Family Forum, believes the bills would protect the beliefs of religious institutions as ensured in the Constitution.

"Both Democrats and Republicans should get behind this very important need to protect our pastors, our priests and our rabbis," said Welty.

The bills passed their respective chambers and now await another vote before being sent to Gov. McAuliffe — who vetoed similar legislation last session.

However, a newly elected governor next session may give new hope to supporters of similar bills.

"If they do not understand that religious liberty is the first of our constitutional freedoms, they do not deserve my trust or vote," Welty said of his support for any gubernatorial candidate.

But others feel legislation like HB 2025 and SB 1324 opens the door for discrimination, including Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who released this statement following the passage of the Senate version:

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has absolutely no place in the Commonwealth, and I am disappointed that a Republican-majority in the Senate approved SB 1324 today,” Lt. Gov. Northam said. “I recently took a seven-city tour across the Commonwealth that ended in Salem, where I was proud to welcome the NCAA soccer tournament. That championship was relocated from North Carolina, as was the NBA All-Star game and major businesses. To be economically competitive, we have to be open and welcoming to all. I will continue to advocate for equality for all.”