Virginia Government Nondiscrimination Act (HB 773)
This law was last updated on Sep 12, 2016
HB 773, as introduced, would create government protections for “sincerely held” religious beliefs or moral convictions for people, religious organizations, and private associations. The bill would allow public and private businesses to legally refuse services or use of facilities to LGBTQ people based on the owner’s religious belief.
HB 773 states that the sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
- Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
- Sexual relations are properly reserved to marriage; or
- The male sex and the term “man” and female sex and the term “woman” refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics of the individual at the time of birth.
The bill would prohibit the state from taking any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that the person believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.
The bill specifies what a discriminatory or adverse action means when taken by the state against such a person.
The bill provides that a person may assert an actual or threatened violation of the bill as a cause of action in any judicial or administrative proceeding and obtain compensatory damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or any other appropriate relief.
The original bill passed the House on February 16, 2016 and moved to the Senate. The Senate produced a substitute bill that essentially changed the intent of the bill from a “Government Nondiscrimination Act” to a variation of a “Pastor Protection Act.”
The new version of the bill would prohibit the state from requiring an individual authorized to perform a marriage ceremony to be required to solemnize any marriage. In addition, no religious organization, organization supervised or controlled by or operated in connection with a religious organization, individual employed by a religious organization, or clergy member or minister would be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization of any marriage if the action would cause the individual or organization to violate a sincerely held religious belief.
The substitute bill passed the Senate on February 25, 2016. The bill was sent back to the House, where it failed to pass.