As promised, Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a bill that said no minister or religious organization could be penalized for acting on a belief that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the legislation, SB41, this year as a religious freedom bill.
McAuliffe, however, said that religious freedoms already are protected, and that state Sen. Bill Carrico’s bill was unconstitutional and discriminatory. The Democratic governor signed the veto on the air during WTOP radio’s “Ask the Governor” program.
“We can’t tolerate that,” McAuliffe said. “We cannot have fear and persecution.”
He said existing law and the First Amendment protect religious freedom.
The bill passed 59-38 in the House of Delegates and 20-19 in the Senate during this year’s General Assembly session.
“This legislation is also bad for business and creates roadblocks as we try to build the new Virginia economy,” McAuliffe said in a statement with the veto. “Businesses and job creators do not want to locate or do business in states that appear more concerned with demonizing people than with creating a strong business climate.”
He was asked on the radio whether the legislation would have put Virginia in a situation like the one in North Carolina, where Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law stopping protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals and requiring transgender people to use bathrooms of the gender they were born with.
“If I were to sign this bill, you bet,” McAuliffe said.
CEOs employ gay people and don’t look favorably on such legislation, he said.
American Airlines, Apple, Dow Chemical, PayPal, Bank of America, Yahoo and Facebook are among companies critical of North Carolina’s new law.
LGBT rights group Equality Virginia said the bill was one of nine this year “targeting gay and transgender individuals, signifying an unprecedented amount of LGBT-centric legislation filed in one legislative session.”
In the House, three Virginia Beach Republicans – Dels. Glenn Davis, Chris Stolle and Ron Villanueva – joined Democrats in voting “no.” Also voting “no”: Dels. Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth; Daun Hester, D-Norfolk; Matthew James, D-Portsmouth; and Joe Lindsey, D-Norfolk. Del. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, did not vote.
Hampton Roads lawmakers voting “yes” included: Dels. Robert Bloxom, R-Accomack County; Chris Jones, R-Suffolk; Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach; Jay Leftwich, R-Chesapeake; and Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach.
The vote in the Senate followed party lines. Hampton Roads lawmakers voting “yes” included: Sens. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake; Bill DeSteph, R-Virginia Beach; and Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach. Voting “no”: Sens. Kenny Alexander, D-Norfolk; Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac, and Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.