Virginia Republicans pass “nondiscrimination” bill that specifically protects anti-LGBT discrimination

This morning, Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates passed HB 773, the Government Nondiscrimination Act, which specifically “prohibits a government entity from taking any discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman and that the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics of the individual at the time of birth.”

As the bill’s summary continues:

Religion and LGBT equality, via Wikimedia Commons

Religion and LGBT equality, via Wikimedia Commons

For purposes of the Act, discriminatory actions include actions that adversely affect the tax treatment of a person or that withhold or otherwise make unavailable any (i) grant, contract, subcontract, cooperative agreement, guarantee, loan, scholarship, license, certification, accreditation, or employment; (ii) entitlement or benefit under a benefit program; or (iii) entitlement to utilize state property. The Act also provides that a person shall be considered to be validly accredited, licensed, or certified for any purpose under state law if such person would otherwise have been accredited, licensed, or certified but for a determination based upon such person’s sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.

In other words, according to this bill, enforcing non-discrimination protections that apply to LGBT people is itself discrimination, so long as the discriminating party can claim that Jesus made them do it. This would make it impossible for Virginia to tie public funds — including government contracts — to non-discrimination clauses that include protections for LGBT people.

As is the case with a similar bill being considered in Georgia, Virginia’s Government Nondiscrimination Act does not protect religious freedom in any sort of broad sense. Instead, it is narrowly tailored to protect a small sampling of religious beliefs held by one ideological subset of one religious tradition.

Once again, that isn’t religious freedom. It’s simply Christian privilege. No amount of Orwellian bill-titling can change that.

At least in Virginia, which has a Democratic governor, the bill has almost no chance of becoming law.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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