The ACLU of Virginia and three other prominent civil rights organizations have joined in a strongly-worded letter to state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), chair of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, urging opposition to Senate Bill 40.
"If passed, this bill would allow all clerks and deputy clerks in the commonwealth to refuse to issue a marriage license to any couple if the clerk objects to the marriage based on 'personal, ethical, moral, or religious grounds,'" according to the letter, signed by ACLU-VA Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Americans United for Separation of Church and State State Legislative Counsel Amrita Singh, Anti-Defamation League Associate Regional Director Eric M. Wachter, and Jewish Community Relations Counsel of Greater Washington Director of Virginia Government Relations Darcy Hirsch.
The letter continues: "If this legislation is passed and signed into law, clerks would believe that they could refuse to issue marriage licenses because they do not approve of marriage for couples who are interfaith, interracial, same sex, or divorcees. Government officials—funded with taxpayer dollars—should not be allowed to pick and choose which of their duties they will fulfill or which services they will provide and to whom, especially when the result would be blatant discrimination and the service to be denied involves a fundamental human right."
Fundamental reasons why SB 40, sponsored by Sen. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson) should be defeated are:
- Freedom of religion does not mean freedom to discriminate.
- No law authorizes or requires an accommodation of religious beliefs that burden others.
- SB 40 would deny Virginians the fundamental right to marry.
- Allowing couples to get licenses elsewhere does not save this bill.