The US state of Virginia is today (14 January), considering a law that allows all companies to deny service to LGBTI people under the guise of religious or moral conviction.
The bill, which was introduced last month by Republican Delegate Bob Marshall, would make it legal for business owners to refuse service on the basis of religious opposition to gay marriage and ‘homosexual behavior.’
This would mean teachers could refuse to have gay students in their classes and movie theaters ban people they perceive to be gay.
Businesses could also put up signs prohibiting gay customers and doctors could refuse to treat someone because they are in a same sex relationship.
Marshall, who has a history of opposing gay rights, has previously has tried and failed to get gay people excluded from the state’s National Guard.
In 2012 he led an effort to block a judge’s appointment on the grounds the nominee was gay, saying, ‘sodomy is not a civil right.’
He now wants to introduce the bill which says any person seeking to obtain or renew a business license ‘shall not be required to perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action or refrain from performing, assisting, consenting to or participating in any action as a condition of obtaining or renewing the license, registration or certificate where such condition would violate the religious or moral convictions of such person with respect to same sex ‘marriage’ or homosexual behavior’
By including both the words ‘marriage’ and ‘behavior’, business owners would be able to discriminate against both legally married people in same-sex unions as well as unmarried people in the LGBTI community.
The bill has been met with opposition from local groups, Guthrie Gastañaga Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement: ‘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.’
The Bill will be heard by the House General Laws Committee, controlled by Republicans and chaired by Todd Gilbert a fierce opponent of LGBTI rights.
But even if it is passed by that committee, Virginia’s governor is Democrat Terry McAuliffe who could veto it to keep it from becoming law.