WV Senators approve HB 3042, the License to Discriminate Bill
CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Members of the state Senate voted 30-3 in favor of the License to Discriminate Bill on Tuesday night. Moments before the bill passed, Senate Republicans suspended the state’s constitutional rules that require bills to be read and considered on three separate days.
Senators also refused to allow any committee to consider the proposal and instead brought the bill directly to the floor for a vote. The bill, dubbed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” by its supporters, will now head to the Governor’s desk for his approval or veto.
“It’s pretty clear to me why our Senators are so fond of this fly-by-night Democracy,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “Proponents of the bill like to pretend it’s a harmless proposal that merely protects religious freedom, but it’s nothing more than a license to discriminate under the guise of religious freedom.”
HB 3042 could allow anyone to be exempt from following a law or a governmental policy if they believe that law or policy burdens their religious beliefs. That means that any individual religious belief has the potential to determine which state and local laws a person or corporation must follow.
“If that’s not a license to discriminate, I don’t know what is,” Schneider said.
Last week, dozens of Mountaineers packed the Capitol for a public hearing on the bill. Opponents vastly outnumbered supporters of the bill by three to one. Multiple religious leaders spoke out against it, telling lawmakers that the bill is unnecessary because West Virginia already has strong protections for religious freedom.
“The truth is, Mountaineers just don’t support discrimination,” Schneider said. “As more people have learned about this bill and what it will do, more and more people have spoken out. It seems like Senators were afraid of facing even more backlash about the License to Discriminate, so they rammed it through in a single night.”
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