Virginia Nondiscrimination Bill Discriminates, Passes House of Delegates

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The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday to grant protections for private businesses holding religious views that refuse service to gay and transgender individuals, along with individuals who have sex outside of marriage.

But House Bill 773, titled the Government Non-Discrimination Act, does exactly the opposite of its intended purpose, at least depending on who you are talking to. 

The bill states,

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a government entity shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, in whole or in part, on the basis that such person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that (i) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, (ii) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, or (iii) the male sex and the term “man” and the female sex and the term “woman” refer to an individual’s biological sex as determined at birth.

Under this act, state agencies are denied the ability to reduce or cancel funding, contracts, and entitlements; alter tax treatment, or deny other benefits based on beliefs held by private entities such as believing marriage is solely between a man and a woman, sex is only for marriage, and that the terms man and woman are only based on biological sex.

If a company holds these views but doesn’t act on them, then it is not seen as as much of an issue. Saying, “I don’t agree with your lifestyle but we are still going to give you our services” is not as bad as “We are not going to serve you because you are X,Y, or Z.” The problem lies in that this act enables companies to openly discriminate and refuse service to specific groups of people and be completely protected from punishment from the government. Therefore, it seems that something aimed to be nondiscriminatory to one group is completely discriminatory to another.

The bill’s patron–Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said that this bill is another way to protect businesses from the movement to push religion out of the public life, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Last year Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act bill into law. This bill, like Virginia’s, prohibits the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion…” This law allows businesses to deny specific groups of people from services and not be punished–eerily similar to Virginia’s proposed bill. Indiana’s law attracted national backlash and criticism from those who saw this as just another way to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
In Virginia’s case, many are hopeful that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will veto this bill if it were to pass through the Senate. McAuliffe’s office has said that the governor “opposes any legislation that will make Virginia less open and welcoming to people based on their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.”
Julia Bryant
Julia Bryant is an Editorial Senior Fellow at Law Street from Howard County, Maryland. She is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Economics. You can contact Julia at



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