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Virginia House Passes Bill to Protect Religious Business Owners

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The Virginia House of Delegates passed a measure Tuesday that would prohibit the state from taking action against businesses that refuse services to same-sex couples or people who engage in extra-marital sex.

The House passed the controversial bill in a 56-41 vote, with supporters saying the legislation would protect religious rights of business owners from state-led lawsuits or the loss of state grants and contracts for simply refusing service to gay couples

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The bill would prevent state agencies from altering tax treatment or canceling or reducing funding, contracts or other benefits for private entities based on beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex should occur only within marriage or that the terms man and woman are based solely on biological sex.

The report added that the bill’s sponsor, Republican Del. C. Todd Gilbert, cited the private evangelical Liberty University as an example of how the state could refuse or retract funding if an institution doesn’t comply with the increasingly secular “equality” laws.

“They are not satisfied with equality,” said Gilbert in the Times-Dispatch article. “And they will not be satisfied until people of faith are driven out of discourse. Are made to cower. Are made to live in fear of speaking their minds.”

The bill comes just two months after the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a local bakery in Oregon, were forced to pay $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding in 2013. Since then, several other businesses have been legally attacked for not serving gay clients.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is expected to veto the bill if it ever makes it to his desk, with spokesperson Brian Coy calling the bill a “step in the wrong direction.”

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