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ACTION ALERT! Stop draconian "religious freedom" bill in Virginia

RICHMOND, Virginia -- The ACLU of Virginia is rallying the troops to stop in its track a bill that would be devastating to the LGBT community.

Rabidly anti-gay Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) has proposed HB 1414, a draconian measure that would go far beyond any "religious freedom" bill that has been proposed in the United States.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive director of ACLU of Virginia, blasted the proposed bill.

“This legislation is nothing more than a state-sanctioned license to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Virginians, including married same-sex couples, simply because of who they are. The bill would do nothing more than reignite the Commonwealth’s historical hostility toward LGBT Virginians. We’ve been down the path of legalized discrimination before, and the members of the General Assembly should know that this is not a path we should willingly walk ever again," she said.

"Religious freedom in America ensures that every person has the right to freely express and practice his or her own personal, religious beliefs. That freedom does not, however, grant individuals, professionals or employers a free pass to discriminate against others in the name of those beliefs. Sadly, discrimination under the cloak of religion is nothing new, and the transparency of that cloak is as clear now as it was 50 years ago when some business owners used it to challenge the end of legal segregation of the races in public accommodations. The issue is simple – either you support discrimination or you oppose it. The members of the General Assembly should make clear that they oppose discrimination by rejecting this legislation.”

Mark Joseph Stern, a writer at Slate.com, said Virginia's HB 1414 would make the other states' efforts look moderate by comparison. He writes:

The Virginia bill, introduced by Del. Bob Marshall, is actually quite ingenious in its complete degradation of gay citizens. Like every “religious liberty” measure introduced over the past year, its true intent is to legalize discrimination against gay people. But whereas most of those bills attempted to allow discrimination in the realm of gay marriage—permitting, for instance, a florist to refuse to provide flowers for a gay couple’s wedding—the Virginia bill has no such limitation.

Instead, Marshall’s measure would attach a “conscience clause” to any “license, registration, or certificate” obtained from the commonwealth, whether by a private business or a government agency. This clause would allow all workers to refuse to “perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action” that would “violate the religious or moral conviction of such person with respect to same-sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual behavior.” (Emphasis mine—though the scare quotes around “marriage” are in the bill.) In other words, workers in the state of Virginia need only declare that interacting with people who partake in “homosexual behavior” violates their “moral conviction”—and they will be free to turn them away.

Because the bill applies to both private and public enterprises, and because these enterprises almost always need some kind of “license, registration, or certificate” from the government, its reach is essentially endless. University professors could refuse to teach gay students; doctors in state-run hospitals could refuse to treat gay patients. Hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and bars could simply put up a sign reading “No gays allowed.” Police officers and ambulance drivers could refuse to aid not just gay couples, but also gay individuals. County clerks and DMVs could turn away gays at the door. Public school teachers could kick out gay students. Daycares could refuse to look after the children of gay couples.

Marshall, of course, was adamantly opposed to gay marriage, which became legal last year in Virginia.

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All Out has created a petition to send a message to the Virginia General Assembly. To read sign the petition, click HERE.