Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe [official website] on Wednesday vetoed [press release] Senate Bill 41 [text], otherwise known as the Religious Freedom; Marriage Solemnization, Participation, and Beliefs Act. The law had passed through Virginia’s Senate [official website] and had been presented to McAuliffe for further action in January. The stated purpose of the bill was to allow individuals and business owners who objected to same-sex marriage for religious reasons to be exempt from participating in such wedding ceremonies without penalty. McAuliffe concluded that the bill would shield from civil liability those who actively discriminate against same-sex couples.
The intersection of religious liberty and sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. Earlier this week Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said that he will also veto a religious freedom bill [HB 757, text]. The bill was given final legislative approval [JURIST report] earlier this month and awaited the governor’s signature. The governor expressed concern [JURIST report] that the bill “contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination.” Last week North Carolina’s governor signed a bill [JURIST report] that prevents local governments from enacting their own nondiscrimination ordinances. The law also requires public school students to use the school bathroom or locker room that corresponds to their sex at birth. Also this month the Kentucky Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] allowing businesses to refuse service to homosexuals based upon their religious beliefs. Earlier in March South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required public school students to use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to their sex at birth.