Va. Senate committee approves ‘Kim Davis’ religious freedom bill

A Virginia Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.

Members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee by an 8-6 vote margin approved Senate Bill 40, which state Sen. Charles Carrico (R-Galax) introduced last month.

State Sens. Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham County), Thomas Norment (R-James City), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover County), Richard Stuart (R-Stafford County), Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsvylvania County), Thomas Garrett (R-Buckingham County) and A. Benton Chafin (R-Russell County) voted for the measure. All six Democrats on the committee — state Sens. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax County), L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), John Edwards (D-Roanoke), A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico County), R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County — and one Republican, state Sen. Glen Sturtevant (R-Richmond), opposed SB 40.

The Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus in a press release it released after the vote described SB 40 as a “Kim Davis” bill, referring to the Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“If public officials don’t want to carry out their prescribed duties, they should not seek election or appointment to those offices,” said McEachin in the press release. “What should never happen is for their prejudices to impose burdens or inequalities on Virginians who simply want to exercise their lawful rights. Public servants need to serve, and serve all Virginians — which is the opposite of what this bill proposes.”

Gays and lesbians have been able to legally marry in Virginia since 2014.

Carrico earlier this week compared homosexuality to cancer. The Galax Republican made the comment during a hearing on a bill that seeks to ban so-called conversion therapy in Virginia.