License To Discriminate

Written by Larry Meadows:

The fight for marriage equality may be coming to a close in Virginia, but the fight for LGBT equality within and beyond City Hall and the state’s wedding registries continues. It is just getting started.

Delegate Bob Marshall of the thirteenth district introduced a bill (HB1414) that would legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals under the guise of freedom of religion. Mark Joseph Stern warns about the dangers of HB1414 at Slate:

Marshall’s measure would attach a “conscience clause” to any “license, registration or certificate” obtained from the commonwealth, whether by a private business or a government agency. This clause would allow all workers to refuse to “perform, assist, consent to, or participate in any action” that would “violate the religious or moral conviction of such person with respect to same-sex “marriage” or homosexual behavior.

Because the bill applies to both private and public enterprises, and because these enterprises almost always need some kind of “license, registration, or certificate” from the government, its reach is essentially endless. University professors could refuse to teach gay students; doctors in state-run hospitals could refuse to treat gay patients. Hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and bars could simply put up a sign reading “No gays allowed.” Police officers and ambulance drivers could refuse to aid not just gay couples, but also gay individuals. County clerks and DMVs could turn away gays at the door. Public school teachers could kick out gay students. Daycares could refuse to look after the children of gay couples.

Delegate Marshall’s proposal, then, is not an effort to promote religious liberty, but a state sponsored Inquisition that would allow intolerant Virginians to tread on the rights of their LGBT compatriots. HB1414 would allow Virginians to impose their religious beliefs upon those who do not ascribe to them, violating the principle of “freedom of religion” to which Delegate Marshall appeals. It is the same “logic” Delegate Marshall used when he co-sponsored the 2006 amendment to the state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, now since invalidated by the Supreme Court. Let’s hope the General Assembly rejects Delegate Marshall’s discredited logic so that we do not have to waste yet another eight years fighting it in the courts.