Va. ACLU opposes bill to protect businesses that deny service to same sex couples

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – The Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Community Relations Council and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, along with the ACLU of Virginia, are trying to block a religious protection bill from passing. HB2025 would protect faith leaders from punishment if they deny services to same-sex couples.

“This would allow any religious based organization to discriminate on someone based on the moral or religious belief that same-sex marriage is wrong,” said Bill Farrar with Virginia’s ACLU. “That is clearly unconstitutional and discrimination; you can’t deny a service to someone just because of that.”

Bill Farrar with Virginia ACLU
Bill Farrar with Virginia ACLU

The bill passed the House of Delegates last week and is headed for the Senate. Some activists interpret the bill to include church-operated schools or hospitals, allowing them to cut off hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, or to deny school enrollment for children of same-sex parents.

According to the letter, “the bill would sanction discrimination against LGBT Virginians—including by government contractors, grantees in performing publicly funded services and in places of public accommodation, and interfere with their fundamental right to marry. Freedom of religion is a core American value.”

Those in support of the legislation say it’s a matter of following deeply held religious beliefs.

“This bill ensures religious charities can continue their services and not be punished by the government because their faith happens to teach a definition of marriage that differs from the government’s,” said Chris Freund, a spokesman for the Family Foundation. “What they don’t want is to be forced to violate their conscience.”

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The bill is set to be heard Monday, during the senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.

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